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By John Stonaker, Apr 30 2019 08:07PM

When and how to prune your trees depends on your goals and the type of tree you want to prune. Dormant pruning, before the plant begins to show any growth, is usually best for most plants. Disease and insects are less likely to be a problem during cold months. In addition, shaping the tree or removing weaker branches means there will be more energy to send to the remaining branches, producing a burst of new growth in the spring.

Do’s and Don’ts of Spring Pruning

But what if you missed the dormant period and you still want to shape your tree? Or what if you want to curtail excessive growth rather than encourage it? It’s not too late, you just need to follow a few important guidelines.

-When pruning after growth has begun, never remove more than 10% of the growth.

-Remove any dead branches, diseased growth, or areas with insect infestation.

-For trees that bloom in early spring: Prune after the flowers fade.

-For trees that bloom in mid- to late-summer: Prune in winter or early spring.

-For maple, walnut, and birch trees: These trees ooze sap in the winter or early spring prunings. This is not harmful to the tree, but to decrease the sap release, you can prune them after they have fully leafed out.

-To curtail growth on most trees: Prune in early to mid-summer after trees have leafed out.

-For oak, elm, sycamore, and honeylocust: Trim only when dormant in the winter to avoid serious disease.

Never prune in the autumn. In this season, plants send their energy to their roots and will not put energy into healing wounds or fighting insects, fungus, or disease, which are all looking for a nice place to over-winter.

Pruning Basics

It’s important to use sterile, sharp tools designed specifically for pruning. Be sure to sterilize your tools between plants so you don’t transfer disease or fungus from one tree to another. As a general rule, prune branches that are damaged, weak, or rubbing against each other. Also, prune branches that grow vertically from a well-established branch or that point downward. Watch out for multiple leader branches splitting from the main trunk of the tree, unless that’s the growth pattern for the variety of tree. Look at your tree and try to envision future growth and how you would like it to look eventually.

As you can imagine, there are many factors involved in pruning properly: the time of year, the type of tree, your goals for the tree, and the current condition of the tree. Pruning is a combination of science and art.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the pruning of the tree, it’s best to call in an expert to get the tree shaped properly and to give you some tips on how to keep it in its best health. Be sure to reach out to us here at Stonaker if you have any questions or you would like an evaluation of the needs of your particular trees.

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