It’s a common misconception that winter tree pruning is not recommended, and tree companies close down in the winter. Ross Tree, a locally owned tree company, operates twelve months of the year and provides tree services throughout the Denver area during the winter. For many homeowners, trees are the last thing on their minds as they pick their last garden tomatoes, winterize their lawnmowers, and blow out their lawn irrigation systems to get their yards ready for the hard freezes common in October. However, their trees have been busy preparing for winter, too. By the end of August, most Denver trees have set their leave and flower buds. These little balls of energy swell and grow once spring comes the following year. The fact that tree set their buds in late summer makes winter an excellent time for tree pruning.


First A Little About Tree Buds

ash tree bud

Trees bud in late summer to prepare for the next growing season and protect their buds with scales to seal them against cold weather. Inside the buds are tightly packed immature leaves and flower tissues that unfold once the weather warms again. Some tree buds hold all the leaves that will grow next season. Others bear the first batch, with more leaves developing once the sap starts flowing again. Trees get taller by growing branches from buds located at the tip of twigs. Buds grow slowly in the winter to their eventual bursting size when spring arrives.

What are the Benefits of Winter Tree Pruning?

Trees lay dormant during the fall and winter, so tree trimming at this time does not stimulate additional growth. It is important not to prune trees to early in the fall because hard freezes will kill off any new shoots. It is best to wait till the winter months to make cuts, so trees have time to heal before spring comes

  1. Easier To Evaluate Tree Structure

    After the leaves have dropped in the fall, it’s easier to see your trees’ structure and identify any problems. Our crews start by pruning dead and dying parts of the plants first. Next, they cut off crossed and rubbing branches, limbs growing towards the center of the tree, branches with narrow crotch angles, and limbs that pose hazards to people or property. Winter pruning truly benefits younger trees and sets them up for a successful growing season. Ross Tree has the tools and expertise to tackle large tree jobs. Check out our handbook on Larger Tree Jobs.
    evaluate tree structure

  2. Better Looking Trees In Spring

    After a winter rejuvenation pruning, the tree directs energy to fewer branches, which improves the overall vigor of a tree. The buds on the remaining branches produce healthier leaves, fruit, and limbs. Winter pruning also avoids the “stick look” of a tree heavily pruned in the spring or summer.

  3. Saves Money

    Winter is ideal for big tree jobs because heavy equipment will not damage yards since the ground is frozen. A tree company can stage their equipment closer to the tree, the job goes faster, lowering job cost, and produces better outcomes.

    tree company boom truck
  4. Less Tree Stress

    Research shows that pruning during dormancy and before buds break in spring leads to faster wound closure. When springtime comes, the healed wounds keep out destructive insects and pathogens.
    tree stress

  5. Avoids Spreading Disease

    Many tree diseases such as Dutch Elm Disease, Oak Wilt, Cedar Hawthorn Rust, and Fire Blight are inactive in the winter, too. So the winter, it a perfect time to prune out dead wood, cankers, and other parts of the affected trees.
    tree disease

  6. Prevents Winter Tree Damage

    Denver’s unpredictable snowstorms cause mechanical tree damage. Winter pruning takes out any branches most likely to break to make trees less susceptible to snow breakage.

    avoid winter tree damage

Winter Storm Damage to Denver Trees

polar freeze damage on trees

Trees know that winter is coming by adding wood tissue to branches and trunks to develop extra strength to withstand wind and snow. However, Denver is known for its heavy snowstorms in early fall and late spring. Trees freeze because the trees have not hardened yet or leafed out and get battered by a spring snowstorm. Also, branches break from the weight of snow. Massive city-wide snowstorms overwhelm Denver’s tree companies, so be proactive and prepare your trees in the winter. It is pruning a good investment.

The last twelve months have been tough on Denver trees. A year ago, the temperature dropped from the eighties to the low teens in a day. The 70-degree temperature swing caught trees off guard because the previous warm days delay a tree’s hardening process to prepare for winter. Denver also experienced a mid-winter drought, which weakening many trees across the City. In April, we experienced a very destructive hard freeze damaging tree branches, leaves, and buds.

The triple weather whammy’s damage is apparent by taking a ride along any bike trail, park, or street in Denver. Many trees look half-dead with bear crowns, leafless branches, and stunted growth. Weakened trees are highly vulnerable to winter storms. To avoid mechanical breakage, it time to get those trees checked out by a professional arborist. The arborist will prune out any damaged, weak-jointed branches or those with sharp crotched angles. Proper pruning makes trees less susceptible to breakage caused by heavy snow and wind storms.

The best way to assure proper tree service is to hire a tree company with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborists on staff. Credentialed ISA Arborists exhibit demonstrable knowledge and skills for the proper care of trees. Ross Tree Company is proud of its three full-time Certified Arborists. The Tree Care Industry Association developed an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standards for tree pruning. Rather than merely sawing off limbs, proper pruning is a mix of art and plant physiology. We recommend the following tree trimming practices to prepare trees for winter:

  • Winter pruning takes out old bud spurs to encourage new growth.
  • Cleaning removes dead, weakly attached, dying, and diseased branches from the crown of a tree.
  • Thinning improves tree structure by cutting branches back to stronger branch attachments. Thinning reduces limb weight, opens up the canopy to sunlight, and retains the tree’s natural shape.
  • Structural pruning establishes a central leader.
  • Raising removes lower branches to clear low-hanging branches from sidewalks, driveways, and buildings.
  • Reduction prunes back the leaders and branch terminals to secondary branches to reduce tree height. Secondary branches assume leadership roles to maintain the form and structural integrity of the tree.

Thinking about winter pruning? Why not call a locally owned and operated tree company in business since 1978. For an appointment, click here to fill out a tree service request form or call 303-871-9121.