Trimming Your Trees In Late Winter

With the holidays over at last, Red's Tree Service is turning its attention to something that can occupy our time from now until spring - winter tree trimming.

Many shrubs and trees are dormant in late winter, and pruning them at this time will invogorate the plants in preparation for abundant spring growth. Here in the Mid-South, we fall under zone 7 for hardiness, meaning late winter will typically be February and March. Now is the perfect time to plan your pruning!

red's tree services memphis arborist winter pruning tree trimmingWhy late winter is the time to trim

Trimming or pruning reduces the size of a plant or tree, helping to maintain its shape or improve its appearance.  Removing dead or diseased wood and thinning out the center branches will also help keep your trees healthy. Good air circulation is an important part of keeping diseases in check.

Although trimming can be done at any time, late winter is excellent for many reasons, including:

  • Better Access - Frozen ground can give you access to areas you might not otherwise be able to reach.
  • Better Visibility - Once most leaves have fallen, structural problems are more visible, making it easier to decide what needs to be trimmed and by how much.
  • In between growing seasons - Because plants are dormant in the winter, the "wounds" left behind by trimming will only be exposed for a short period of time, until the new growth of spring begins sealing them.
  • Convenience - Spring and summer are full of outdoor gardening activities, from planting to mowing, so use the relative quiet of winter to your trees' advantage!

To trim or not to trim

Some trees that will thrive with a later winter trim are ornamental summer flowering trees that bloom in summer such as Crepe Myrtle, Vitex, and Rose of Sharon.

Fruit trees also benefit from winter pruning. Although they flower on growth from the previous season, trimming while dormant will promote more vigorous growth and larger fruits that are better tasting. Most fruit trees have some special requirements so do your research before you begin cutting!

Not all trees should be cut back in late winter, though. Spring flowering shrubs and trees like Forsythia, azaleas, lilacs, and ornamental fruit trees prefer pruning in the spring, soon after they flower. Trees that "bleed", such as maples, birches, dogwoods, walnut, and elm, produce large amounts of sap when pruned in late winter. Trimming these trees in winter won't hurt them, but it will be a lot less messy for you if you wait until summer.

Tools for success

You'll get the best results from using clean, sharp tools specifically suited for trimming. Some essentials are:

  • a sharp pocket knife, for making small cuts as needed
  • loppers make big bites when you need some leverage. These are great to use on dead wood since they tend to crush rather than cut. If used on a living tree, this crushing action can damage the living cells in a branch, causing a longer healing time
  • saws are ideal for large branches and can be used to cut living wood. The more teeth a saw has, the finer the cut and the easier the healing process will be
  • pole saws and pole pruners are excellent for reaching into large shrubs or for working on branches overhead


You can’t go wrong by just removing dead wood, crisscrossing branches, and limiting removal. But what about the more complicated jobs?

Know when to call in the pros

If you can't reach a limb from the ground with a pole saw or pruner, it's time to call in the professionals, like our experienced team here at Red's Tree Services. This also applies if the limbs are heavier than you can manage on your own, or if the tree is near power lines.

Certain species of trees require more precise timing and different approaches for proper pruning and trimming. Having an experienced arborist on hand will help keep both you and your trees safe. Using a licensed tree service professional like Red’s Tree Services will ensure a correct pruning and trimming job will be done. This will help create and maintain strong tree structures that will look beautiful and prevent any safety hazards.

Whether you're looking for guidance on DIY tree trimming, or a quote on professional assistance with winter pruning, get in touch with us today! Red's Tree Services are always here to help keep your property safe and your trees healthy.


Posted by Kevin Smith at 1:14 PM


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