“Dormant” or “Winter” Pruning…..what is it and why should I be doing it? 

In the simplest of explanations, dormant season pruning is the act of thinning or pruning trees and shrubs during the time of the year when they are not actively growing. Pretty basic stuff. But bigger questions still remain: “What is the timing of this service so significant?” “Why should this service be performed?” “How does this benefit my property?”  

Timing: To best explain this I will need to reference back to my college Botany class where we learned about the cycle of plant growth and how plants convert sunlight, water, and nutrients in a usable food source. Now we won’t kill you with science here but at a basic level, this is what happens and why it is relevant to dormant season pruning. Leaves contain chlorophyll; roots absorb water and nutrients from the ground, and the sun provides light. When a plant is active and growing, the roots send water and nutrients to the leaves. When these elements interact with the chlorophyll and sunlight, the reaction produces sugars which essentially become food for the plant to grow. While this process continues during the active growing season, much of this food is returned to a plant’s roots and stored for times when the plant is not actively growing. Ultimately, when winter gives way to spring this stored food becomes available to the plant and results in a flush of growth and vibrant re-leafing. So how does this all correlate to pruning? By not removing active leaves and branches during the growing season, the plant gains the full benefit of the food producing qualities of those leaves – maximizing the amount of food it is able to store. When we remove those same branches during the dormant season, we now reduce the amount of leaves that the stored food will need to support – making the portions of the plant that was not pruned considerably healthier and positioned for new growth.

Reasons: The reasons for dormant season pruning varies depending on climate and plant type. In markets like Philadelphia and Dallas, we use this pruning to help shape a plant, eliminate potential branching hazards, and generally improve a plant’s branching structure. In these areas, crossing limbs are removed; a strong leader can be established, and the crown of a tree can be shaped. In more tropical locations like Phoenix and Southeast Florida, pruning in the winter is often done to elevate low hanging branches and thin the canopies of larger specimens. By selectively removing more substantial limbs from established tropical trees, we can  effectively reduce the number of cuts made on a specimen – which in turn – produces fewer emergence points for new growth.  Regardless of your geographical location, certain types of shrubs will also needs to be thinned on an ongoing basis to promote strong growth and long-term plant health.

Benefits: Whether you’re located in Phoenix, AZ, Philadelphia, PA, or Dallas, TX, every property can benefit from a dormant season pruning service. A repetitive and structured program executed annually will deliver healthier trees and shrubs that will have stronger branching structures, be less impacted by storm damages, require less long term care, and ultimately have a superior appearance. When you engage with your commercial landscape contractor in the upcoming year, be sure to ask about dormant season pruning and how it can enhance your specific property.