Good time for tree pruning

Staff report

A staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association said winter is an excellent time to prune dead and hazardous branches out of trees.

“Most trees can be pruned year-round, if pruned properly,” said Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP. “However, certain pruning operations are easier to do in the winter, especially if the ground is frozen or the tree is not actively growing.”

He said winter is the best time for an arborist to locate deadwood by looking for changes in branch color, fungus growth, cracks, and other symptoms that can help them make this determination. Since the leaves are off, the view of the entire tree’s architecture is clear, and a thorough check can be performed.

Proper pruning is an art based on scientific principles of plant physiology, Andersen said. At its most basic level, pruning trees involves removing damaged, dead or structurally weak limbs, which will improve a tree’s health and reduce the chances of personal or property damage caused by falling limbs. More advanced pruning methods aid in improving the tree’s structure and long-term health.

Proper pruning encourages growth, increases flower and fruit production, improves plant health, and removes damaged limbs, all which give aesthetic appeal to a tree. Pruning at the right time and in the right way is critical, since it is possible to kill a tree by neglect or over-pruning. Pruning at the wrong time can be damaging to tree tissues.

Andersen said an arborist is pruning a tree correctly if they follow the American National Standards Institute standard for tree pruning, called ANSI A300. The standard recommends, and in some cases requires, that the use of certain tools, cutting techniques, and pruning methods be followed, and sets the standard definitions for terms the arborist will use in a customer’s estimate. Properly written work estimates for tree pruning should be written in accordance with ANSI A300 standards.

Arborists adhering to the ANSI A300 pruning standard will not: leave branch stubs; make unnecessary heading cuts; cut off the branch collar; strip a branch from the inside, leaving foliage just at the ends; remove more than 25 percent of the foliage of a single branch; remove more than 25 percent of the total tree foliage in a single year; damage other parts of the tree during pruning; use wound paint; prune without a good reason; and climb the tree with climbing spikes.

A tree service provider can be found using the “Locate Your Local TCIA Member Companies” program by calling 800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP Code search at

Staff report