As you’ve been admiring all of 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, this can be tough when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Read on to learn more about spring tree pruning.

If you can prune your trees before they begin growing, that still counts as dormant pruning and is the ideal time to prune. Once trees start budding or blooming in spring, 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 too late in the spring can limit the tree’s bloom potential for the year. Trimming too late 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, 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, those trees 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 had all of 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 certain trees in spring can leave them more vulnerable to insect infestation and diseases.

Don’t prune these trees in spring, summer or early fall:

  • Oak trees to reduce the chance of oak wilt
  • Elm trees to reduce the chance of Dutch elm disease
  • Sycamore trees to reduce the chance of anthracnose
  • Honey locust trees to reduce the chance of stem cankers