Tree Tips: When To Prune Your Tree

by Aaron Dohogne

If you are thinking of pruning the trees on your property, it’s best to act soon. For any heavy pruning, the Missouri Department of Conservation recommends doing so during December, January, and/or February. The worst time is during April and May, when a tree’s energy levels are low. Light pruning is less critical in timing, but still avoid April and May. You can prune dead limbs and branches any time throughout the year.

Timing is Important

Don’t prune a tree the first year it’s in the ground, a critical year for a recently planted tree. All of the leaves on the branches are busy making energy for the tree to grow tall and strong and young trees need this energy. Once you do start pruning, don’t prune more than 25% of the tree in any single year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has some basic guidelines it recommends when pruning:

1 – Use the 3-Cut Method

3-Cut Method

2 – Don’t Over-prune


3 – Save the Branch Collar

Branch Collars

4 – Prune now to avoid future problems

Prune Now

5 – Don’t leaves stubs or cut at mid-twig

Remove Whole Limbs or Branches

Here’s a great resource for pruning basics: