Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tips for winter tree pruning to help ReTree YYC

During the winter, trees are dormant, making this a great time to prune your deciduous trees as they are not actively growing.

Remember to be safe when pruning trees.
Deciduous trees are trees that lose their leaves in winter. Winter pruning promotes fast regrowth and healing of the pruning wounds in the spring. Insects and diseases are less active in the winter and the pruning wounds are exposed for just a short time.

Also, without leaves, a trees natural shape is much more visible, allowing you to see the branches that could be pruned.

Tips for winter pruning
Prune on a mild day. Trees should be pruned in the earlier part of winter, before the conditions become too rough, to prevent frozen branches from shattering when they hit the ground.
Prune early in the winter season when there is little to no snow on the ground to ensure safe footing.
First prune out dead and diseased branches, then remove the overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the crown of the tree.
Remember to keep the branches that maintain the overall structure of the tree.
Cut the branch at the ‘node’ or the ‘collar’. The node is the point at which one branch attaches to another and the collar is the swollen area that is found where the branch attaches to the trunk.
Be careful not to over prune.
Do not "top" your tree in an effort to control its size. Topping is the drastic cutting back of major branches. Topping may destroy the natural form of the tree, encourages the tree to put our weakly attached shoots and can create an opportunity for the sun to scald to the newly exposed branches which are more prone to damage.

But before you grab your handy pruning shears, it is important to remember to be safe.

Safety cautions
Practice safety first. Start with issues that will lead to major problems if ignored. Look for potential hazards such as major limbs that are still hanging in the crown (top area) of the tree and/or trunks of trees that are split. These issues should be addressed as soon as possible, especially if there is a risk to injure people or damage property.
Know your skill level. Consult with an International Society Arborist (ISA) certified arborist or a tree care company that employs ISA certified arborists. This could apply if trees need work in their canopy, large limbs need to be removed or specialized equipment is needed.

The City has been working hard to recover our trees since the September 2014 ‘Snowtember’ snowstorm. We have pruned and assessed 111,968 City trees and planted 7,488 City trees so far. However, with more than three quarters of our urban canopy on private property, it will take us all working together to regrow our urban forest.

Watch more winter tree care tips and visit calgary.ca/trees.

Submitted by Althea Livingston, Parks


  1. It certainly is important to ensure you keep up with your tree maintenance during the winter.

  2. Good post! I think light pruning and the removal of dead wood can do anytime of the year.