Winter – Best Time to Prune Deciduous Trees

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When to Prune Deciduous Trees

Winter is the best time to prune deciduous trees. There are som exceptions but, for most trees, late winter is great.

As I said in the about us page – I am not a gardener. My role is usually the heavy lifting stuff like pruning and digging. I strongly suggest you check with an expert if you are unsure about pruning your trees. There are many great sites – I refer to the Royal Horticultural Society site if I need reassurance

Why Prune in Winter

That said, winter is a great time for cutting/pruning most deciduous trees. In winter trees are dormant. There is little sap movement and very little is going on within the tree.

There are a few trees that are not recommended for pruning in winter: horse chestnut, birch, walnut and cherry trees. As a great surprise to me that list also includes Maple. That’s a surprise because I have pruned my maples in Winter for the last 15 years with absolutely no ill effects at all.

For garden shredder users the great benefit of pruning in winter is that the wood is leaf free and is generally pretty dry. As you can see from the photos on this page, once the leaves fall in Autumn, Maples are left with long clean growth from the past year. Once cut in late February to early March these branches are just about perfect to feed into the shredder.

Maple Trees in Autumn.  The annual growth is clear.  Winter is the best time to prune deciduous trees
Maple Trees in Autumn. The annual growth is clear.

Pruning Equipment

You really don’t need a lot of gear to be able to do a pretty professional job of pruning your own trees. We are going to do a more detailed review of some of these products later. For now, here are some of the most useful items.

Telescopic Pruning Shears

Telescopic pruning shears are pretty much a must.

There are many models for sale on Amazon and many get great reviews. Spear and Jackson get just about the best reviews but they are comparatively expensive. There are models from Gardena, Darlac and many more.

Take your time and have a good shop around.

Pruning Saw

A small hand held pruning saw will make short work of even quite thick branches – so long as they are within easy reach. Using the saw attachment on the telescopic pruner works pretty well but is much more difficult and tiring to use.

I use a Draper saw and absolutely love it. Once again, there are many options available from a wide range of makers – you really can’t go wrong.


Secateurs are still really great for pruning smaller branches (again if you can reach them). You can be very precise with your pruning using good secateurs.

There are many models for sale with both bypass (blades cross like scissors) or anvil (only one cutting blade which comes across to meet the flat, anvil face) cutting mechanisms. I like the anvil cutters better as I find I can use them more quickly. My wife prefers cross over cutters. The choice is yours and there are some really great options on Amazon.

One innovation over recent years has been the design of ratchet secateurs. These enable you to cut much bigger, harder clippings as the power you generate is increased via the ratchet. It does mean you have to open and close these secateurs several times to cut more stubborn branches.

Telescopic Tree Loppers

Tree loppers come with and without telescopic handles. For most people, telescopic loppers are going to be more versatile.

As with every other tool we have mentioned here – there is a vast range of tree loppers available. Shop around for good prices and read the reviews on Amazon. You can’t really go wrong.

Garden Shredders to Dispose of Cuttings

If winter is a great time for pruning trees it is also a great time for getting a garden shredder to helping to dispose of all of your cuttings.

Why not take a look at our view of the best electric garden shredders for a little inspiration?


That’s about it really. If you need a chain saw or any ladder bigger than a set of steps you are probably looking at major tree surgery. In this case it may well be left to an expert who will not only be able to shape your tree beautifully (it might not look like it until you get some good spring growth underway though). Tree surgeons will take away most of the waste for you. If you have an open fire make sure you keep any logs created from tree surgery.