Pruning Trees in Spring – Is It OK to Do?

Pruning Trees in Spring – Is It OK to Do?

As you’ve been admiring all the fresh green growth in your yard this spring, perhaps you’ve noticed something else, too. Like excessive growth of a tree or shrub that you want to cut.

Generally, the best time to prune most trees is when they’re leafless in winter. But as you know, with each rule of thumb, there are exceptions.

Read on to learn more about spring tree pruning.

Your Guide to Pruning Trees in Spring

If you can prune your trees before they begin growing, that still counts as dormant pruning and is the ideal time to prune because of these benefits.

Once trees start budding or blooming in spring, though, double-check that pruning now won’t put your tree in harm’s way.

Can I do any pruning after trees have leaves and buds in spring?

In general, pruning in spring can limit the tree’s bloom potential for the year. Plus, trimming in spring can leave cuts on trees that leave them more vulnerable to an insect infestation or disease.

But, you can safely do some tree pruning in spring–as long as you don’t remove any more than 10 percent of the tree’s branches.

Your goal with spring pruning should be one of two things.

  • Pruning for safety: Remove any dead, dying or decaying branches to keep your tree (and home) safe.
  • Minimal pruning for aesthetics: Cut or remove branches to shape your tree a bit.

Are there any trees that are better to prune in spring?

Yes! If you’ve just planted a new tree, cut off any broken, defected or damaged limbs, then learn how to prune young trees to improve their structure.

You can also prune maple, walnut and birch trees in late spring or early summer. When pruned in winter, they tend to ooze sap. The sap does little to no harm, but some people think it’s too messy! Trimming these trees after they have all their leaves for the season reduces sap bleeding.

And, finally, prune these trees once they’re done blooming for the season in spring:

  • Apricot trees
  • Chokecherry trees
  • Crabapple trees
  • Dogwood trees
  • Flowering cherry trees
  • Flowering plum trees
  • Juneberry trees
  • Lilac trees
  • Magnolia trees

Are there any trees I should never prune or trim in spring?

Remember: pruning trees in spring can leave them more vulnerable to insect infestation and diseases.

That’s why you don’t want to prune these trees in spring, summer or early fall:

Have a question? Comment below. Or if you need help pruning your trees, we’re here to help!

  • The Tree Doctor September 11, 2018 >Hi Noreen, Late or no spring leaf out can result from many issues. Early fall or late spring freezes, drought, or harsh winter conditions can result in bud/twig death, forcing the tree to develop replacement buds, which requires additional time to accomplish. These issues typically only result in partial or tip dieback as opposed to the whole tree not leafing out. If the entire tree does not leaf out, this often indicates a potential issue with the tree’s roots system. I recommend that you have a certified arborist come out to inspect the tree. They will be able to give an accurate diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly. You can contact your local Davey Tree office directly at (866) 453-5585. You can also fill out a consultation request form on their local webpage here: Best of luck to you, Noreen.
  • Noreen Edwards September 9, 2018 >The 8' Prairiefire Crabapple I planted in 2014 was in a spot that water ran off quickly and didn't get watered well for 3 years. Close to half the branches didn't have leaves this year. We have been watering well since late July and there is new growth now, some on branches that were leafless. I am trying to figure out what to prune off and when, and perhaps I should give it some food. Thanks.
  • The Tree Doctor June 12, 2018 >Hi Loretta, There are numerous reasons this could be happening. To be on the safe side, I recommend contacting a certified arborist and having them come out and inspect the tree in person. They will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly, if necessary. I can forward this information to your local Davey Tree office if you’d like. You can also contact them directly at (503) 205-6383. You can also fill out a quick consultation request form on their local webpage here: Best of luck to you. Here if you have any more questions, Loretta.
  • Loretta Clark June 7, 2018 >I have a LARGE fir tree that is oozing LOTS of sap, even pooling on the ground. Is this the tree trying to protect itself from an insect infestation or is it more serious?
  • The Tree Doctor May 24, 2017 >Hi there, Laura. So sorry to hear that your elm tree needs to be taken down. Unfortunately, Davey Tree doesn't provide residential tree service in your neck of the woods! In the meantime, you may find this article helpful, Laura:
  • Laura Ross May 19, 2017 >Can you take down (remove) an elm tree in June
Add a comment:
Related Blog Posts

Request a consultation

  • How would you like to be contacted?
*Please fill out all required fields.