Tree Trimming & Pruning Guide for Fall

Prevent your shrubs and trees from becoming diseased and dying because of untimely fall pruning. Knowing when to prune your plants, shrubs, and trees in the fall will help you keep them thriving. You can talk to one of our licensed tree care experts if you need to learn more about pruning your trees.

The Risk of Early Fall Pruning

It is not advised to conduct ANY pruning activities in early fall. All pruning activities encourage new plant growth. When these activities occur in early fall (when the tree or plant is going dormant), any fresh growth won’t have enough time to harden before the first frost and freezing temperatures set in. This tender recent growth, damaged by freezing weather, can become a vector for infestations and disease.

Lumberjack with chainsaw and harness pruning a tree.

Why You Shouldn’t Prune In The Early Fall.

The dangers of early fall pruning include:


  • Disease – As the seasons change from summer to fall, rainfall is typically increased, creating a moist or wet environment that promotes the growth and spreading of disease-causing bacteria and fungi.


  • Infestation – Like disease infections, insect infestations are supported by a moist or wet environment. These conditions delay a tree or plant’s ability to heal pruning wounds.


  • Off-Season Growth – As mentioned, pruning encourages growth. Pruning a tree or plant before dormancy can result in tender growth that becomes a vector for disease and infestation (when damaged by freezing weather).


Tip: Put your pruning shears away for another couple of months and allow your trees and plants to go completely dormant. Once dormancy has settled in (after all the leaves have dropped), you can safely prune trees and shrubs.


Note: If you must perform fall pruning, wait for your tree, shrub, or plant to go completely dormant. This “fall” window of opportunity is generally between the Thanksgiving and New Year holidays. However, if you can wait, late winter (late February) pruning is far less risky.

Old Pine Bark Fell Off From Damage To Tree Trunk By Insects - Ants

Fall Pruning Exceptions

Some situations arise, demanding immediate pruning activities. While most of these apply to trees, large or overgrown shrubs may require similar attention. Be on the lookout for the following:

  • Overhanging or Dangerous Growth – When trees or large shrubs grow over a structure or lean in that direction, they can cause great concern. This is true, especially in regions prone to severe weather.

The solution to this predicament is to prune back the limbs or branches causing the concern or to remove the tree or shrub, eliminating the threat altogether.

  • Dead Limbs or Branches – For all plant life, dead wood represents an easy entryway for disease and insect infestation. In fact, dead limbs or branches may result from a disease or infestation and should be investigated.

This dead wood should be removed upon discovery, regardless of the season or circumstance.

  • Storm Damage – Severe weather events seemingly occurring more frequently and consequently causing sometimes catastrophic damages to trees, shrubs, and plants.

When you detect storm damage in your trees, shrubs, and plants, take immediate action to remove the damaged wood and prune back limbs that have snapped or broken off (eliminating rough or uneven surfaces). Handling storm-damaged trees is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Minor damages can be resolved, but for more extensive damages, hire a professional tree service to help you sort out what can be salvaged and what is a threat and needs removing.

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