What Exactly Does the Dormant Season Mean for Your Trees?

What Exactly Does the Dormant Season Mean for Your Trees?

Does the phrase “dormant season” or “dormancy” sound familiar to you?

You may have heard these words recently, perhaps within an explanation of dormant pruning services. Because the dormant season has either arrived or will arrive to your region within the early winter weeks, understanding its effects on your trees may help you better monitor their health before spring.

How do trees prepare for the dormant season?

Before the leaves of deciduous trees fall to the ground in autumn, the trees pull resources from them to conserve their energy. This allows these resources to be remobilized and used in the spring flush of growth. 

When do trees know it’s time to begin the dormant season?

Like humans, trees are sensitive to change. “Trees enter the dormant or ‘resting’ season based on the decrease in temperature and the decrease of daylight received,” says Rex Bastian, one of Davey’s regional technical advisors. These are the two primary factors that determine when a tree will rest for the winter.

Just how inactive is a tree during the dormant season?

Root development can still occur in the soil after all leaves have dropped from a tree and before the ground freezes; in fact, root development may occur further into winter than we may assume. Proper mulching at the base of trees before temperatures begin declining in fall helps insulate the soil and provide a better environment for roots to form for a longer period of time.

Why is the dormant season a good time to perform tree maintenance?

When the ground is frozen, arborists and their tree care equipment may more easily access your trees to inspect them and perform tree services. The frozen ground helps prevent soil compaction as well. “Accessing trees in winter means less disruptions for the homeowner,” Bastian explains. Pruning in winter decreases the likeliness for some tree diseases to spread and for large snow accumulations to harm the integrity of a tree’s structure.

How cold-hardy are your trees? Why does that matter to the likelihood they survive in your landscape? Learn more about plant hardiness in our next blog post, “Plant Hardiness and Its Significance to Your Trees This Winter.”

If your trees need dormant pruning or other winter tree maintenance, contact your local Davey professionally trained arborist for a free consultation.

  • The Tree Doctor October 24, 2017 >Hi there, Richard. Great question! It all depends on the species and environment. Trees become dormant based on the decrease in temperature and the decrease of daylight received. These are the two primary factors that determine when a tree will rest for the winter. In the pre-dormancy phase, the tree can come out of its “hibernation” if there are favorable growing conditions. In dormancy, the tree will not come out of hibernation easily. Whenever the buds start growing is when the tree is coming out of dormancy. Hope this helps, Richard.
  • Richard Chastain October 19, 2017 >Does a tree start to go dormant on the day Winter begins, or how long after the first day of Winter does a deciduous tree go dormant, or is dormancy dependent on the first frost, or does the air temperature have to stay below 32F degrees all day every day until Winter is over in the Spring and the F/C temperature goes above freezing?
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