Important Tips for Winter Pruning

Do you have an overgrown bush that forces you to walk around your sidewalk? Or other overgrown limbs of plants to avoid? Many people don’t think about their outdoor plants until springtime, but many trees and shrubs should be pruned during the winter before new growth begins.  February and March are the best months of the entire year to prune fruit, flowering, and shade trees. Pruning in late winter or very early spring keeps you from inadvertently cutting off growing branches.

This technique is called corrective pruning. It is much more dramatic that your typical year round touch ups. If you wait until spring after new growth has started, you could damage the plant.  Food stored in the roots and stem is used to develop new growth.  This food should be replaced by new foliage before it is removed.  If it is not, dwarfing of the plant may occur.

Forsythia, quince, spirea and other early spring flowering shrubs should be pruned a little later, after they have finished flowering. You can even cut a few branches early and force them into early bloom in warm water.

Why is Winter Pruning Important?                                                                                

To train the plant

To maintain plant health

To improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage or stem

To restrict growth

To start newer plants of on the right track

General Pruning Tips

The rules of pruning vary with different plants.  But here are a few basic guidelines:

1. First remove all dead, broken, diseased or problem limbs by cutting them at the point of origin or back to a strong lateral branch (a branch originating from the main trunk).

2. Next make training cuts.  By cutting back lateral branches, you help to train the tree or shrub to maintain its natural shape.

3. Eliminate weak or narrow crotches and if there are two main leaders, eliminate the weaker of the two. Also eliminate branches that cross over each other as rubbing can cause damage and invite disease.

4. Remove water sprouts (the sprouts that grow next to the trunk).

5. Take a step back and assess your work.  If you’ve removed a large amount of wood, further pruning may have to be delayed until next year.

For more information, call our office at (913) 451-4664 or email us at We can help you schedule a meeting with our arborist.