Many homeowners may not know that pruning trees in the winter can benefit some trees. Deciduous trees are dormant in winter, so they won't bleed sap when pruned at this time of year like they will at other times of year. In addition, many varieties of trees are less likely to attract disease or insects if pruned in the winter. Oak trees, for example, emit a strong odor when pruned, and that odor can attract a type of beetle that causes oak wilt. But this type of beetle hibernates in the winter, making this the ideal season to prune oak trees.
Before pruning trees, regardless of the time of year, homeowners should learn the types of trees on their property and when the ideal pruning season is for each type of tree. Pruning also may depend on climate, so speak with a local gardening or landscaping professional to determine when is the best time to prune the trees on your property.
Once the time has come to prune, keep the following tips in mind to maintain healthy and aesthetically appealing trees.
* Remove limbs that appear to be competing for space. Tree limbs that are crossing, rubbing or growing parallel to one another can be pruned. Such limbs may prohibit the growth of nearby limbs.
* Remove limbs that are growing in. Some tree limbs may appear to be growing toward the interior of the tree, and these limbs can be pruned.
* Remove limbs growing toward the ground. A healthy tree's limbs will grow outward, not toward the ground.
* Remove dead limbs. Dead limbs simply take up space, and a dead limb is not going to grow back come the spring. Dead, broken or diseased limbs should be removed when pruning.
* Do not top trees. Tree topping is the removal of large branches and/or trunks from the top of a tree. Topping leaves a tree susceptible to disease and insect infestation, and homeowners who top trees to prevent them from getting any larger should know that topping actually promotes the growth of smaller, weaker branches that eventually grow as tall, if not taller, than the original branches before the tree was topped. Topping also decreases a tree's life expectancy.