When to prune trees? Winter-Summer

Pruning a tree is not like trimming a hedge, although a seriously overgrown hedge is basically a row of scrubby trees that could need pruning to restore it to a proper hedge again.

Young ornamental trees may be shaped using secateurs to prune side shoots, but removing branches on an adult tree will need a special pruning saw or saw blade for your bow saw.

Winter is usually the right time to prune a tree.

Why is winter the best time to prune most trees?
Some trees will bleed sap if they are pruned in spring. This is not likely to kill a healthy tree, but it’s best to avoid it.
Birch, Laburnum, Hornbeam, Lime (as in Tilia, the common roadside tree, not the citrus, nor the Roman infrastructure, and certainly not the scooters) and Poplar trees are all potentially heavy bleeders, so they are always pruned in late autumn to  early winter for this reason.

Magnolia and Walnut trees are pruned in late summer. The Walnut may lose some sap at this time, but within a year it will have healed more than it would a year on from an early winter pruning.

That said, summer is often a fine time to prune as well.

Flowering cherry trees and many stone fruit trees (i.e. cherries, plums, peaches – these are all in the group Prunus) should be pruned in summer only.
This avoids the risk of Silver leaf disease, which spreads in winter.

As for pretty much all other trees, pruning them in summer or winter makes little difference.
If a tree needs pruning to remove Dead, Diseased or Damaged wood, it is usually best to do it right away.

By Ashridge Support

Ashridge Nurseries has been in the business of delivering plants since 1949.


  1. Emma Lilly says:

    I have just planted a young winter flowering cherry I ordered online. It is 8ft, but only because of the one central branch which is more than 3 ft higher than any of the lower branches whose highest point is 5ft. The tall branch looks silly and flops over to one side. Is it safe to take about 2ft off it or will I harm the tree?

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Thanks for your enquiry. I cannot find your email on our database, so I am guessing that you bought your tree elsewhere. If that is the case then either:
      1. Get advice from the company that sold it to you who – by definition – know more about variety, size and how it was grown etc than we do, or
      2. If you still want advice from us:
      a. Sign up for our newsletter (top right-hand corner of any page on our site),
      b. provide details here of the variety of cherry plus pictures of the tree itself taken from far enough away to guage itse size and shape and another taken close up so we can clearly see the offending limb…

      Many thanks

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