A Guide To Dormant Pruning


Although the garden is dormant at this time of year, there is still work to be done.  Trees require maintenance to remain healthy and support good structure, this practice will aid in the tree’s ability to weather storms and high winds with minimal damage.

This is the time to inspect your properties for diseased or dying branches and to remove branches that are crossing, hanging low, or create space between buildings or fences.  Dormant pruning of trees can be performed more efficiently without leaves on the deciduous plants when you can see the structure of the plant.

Be mindful of flowering trees and shrubs that bloom in the spring and realize that pruning them with result in less flower production, but correct and judicious pruning is necessary to keep them free from disease.  The best time to prune Spring flowering trees is right after flowering, the second-best time, is in the winter.

Winter pruning results in minimal sap loss and reduces the spread of disease since most will be dormant at this time. Pruning before the new growth occurs allow for less stress and more vigorous growth in the spring.

Some trees, such as Oaks, should only be pruned in the dormant season due to their high susceptibility to Oak Wilt Disease which is known to spread extremely fast in Spring and Summer. This is also a good time to inspect for insect eggs masses and overwintering scale insects.

Proper pruning is essential, improper pruning can injure or kill a tree.  There are many sites and courses that will teach proper pruning techniques, we have included a link to the State of New Jersey’s parks and forests website for an in depth look at proper techniques

Pruning Links

Rutgers - Pruning – Not a Mysterious Art - An excellent guide written by Bruce Crawford of Rutger's University with general and NJ specific pruning tips and plant lists.


Additional Guides

• A great guide to shrub and tree pruning from NC State.


• Another excellent state university guide to pruning, including detailed listings of when to prune specific plants.


• US Forest Service guide to pruning trees


General Links



Video Links

An excellent video on dormant pruning

A video from the Arbor Day Foundation