What Happens if you Prune a Tree at the Wrong Time

If you have a tree in your backyard or if you have an orchard, you probably know what it like is to prune. As you know, pruning isn’t as simple as it might seem at the first glance. Many believe that all you have to do is just grab a pair of scissors and start cutting away at all the branches in your way, however, that’s not what you should do. Also, you have to know when to prune. Doing it too soon or too late, might be even worse than just randomly cutting the foliage off of a tree.

Since there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, we decided to be the ones to answer them for you. In the following of this article, we’re going to answer some important questions about pruning and trimming, so when the time comes, you’ll know exactly what to do.

What’s Pruning And Is It The Same As Trimming?

Chances are, you’ve heard these terms used interchangeably. However, don’t be fooled – these two aren’t the same thing. Yes, both require you to remove a certain portion of the foliage, but they’re not the same, nor are they done for the same reasons.

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Pruning is next-level trimming, if we may call it that. Unlike trimming, pruning isn’t only focused on shaping a tree, instead, the focus is shifted towards the tree’s health, development, and well-being. For a young tree, especially the fruit-bearing one, pruning is one of the key elements in its development. Removing the excess foliage and branches off of a young tree only helps boost its natural growth, increases the crop, and makes the tree more structurally.

As far as trimming goes, it’s pretty much the same as it is with hedges – it’s about cutting off the excess foliage to make a plant look better.

How Often Should You Prune Your Tree?

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Depending on the species and age of the tree, you may want to prune anywhere between twice a year to once every three to five years. In general, young and fruit-bearing trees can benefit from frequent pruning, meaning once or twice a year. On the other hand, older, properly developed trees shouldn’t be touched all that often. As we’ve said, once every three to five years should be more than enough. You could trim the dead branches off of an old tree more often if you happen to notice them. Naturally, keep in mind that if you notice too many dead branches, it might be time to call up an arborist and have your tree inspected because at that point it might be dying.

What’s The Main Rule Of Pruning?

The most important thing to remember when it comes to pruning is never to cut below a growing point of the branch or a bud. Knowing where to cut is as important as knowing when to cut. If you cut below a growing point, you’re pretty much guaranteed never to see that branch again.

However, in some instances, you’re forced to cut below the growing point, primarily for safety reasons. As you know, there are other tree-cutting techniques, such as topping or lopping, and if you’re curious about those, as well, you can learn more here.

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When’s The Right Time To Prune?

There is no right answer to this question as every tree is different. However, in general, there are some rules you could follow. Early spring or late winter is usually considered the ideal time to prune a tree and if you don’t know anything about your particular tree, this should be a safe choice. Some species can benefit from a summer trim, but you do have to know which species you’re dealing with. Otherwise…

What Happens If You Prune A Tree At The Wrong Time?

There are a lot of bad things that can happen if you do this at the wrong time. In the worst-case scenario, you’re going to end up with a dead tree that you’ll have to trim all the way to the roots – if you know what we mean.

Additionally, if you end up pruning your tree during the summer, you’re going to put too much stress on it. Producing new leaf and branch growth during hot, summer days will strain the tree way too much. You might not kill it, but you’ll definitely stomp the growth and do the opposite of what you’re supposed to do.

Furthermore, pruning in the autumn might be even worse. During autumn, trees go into the dormant state, which is why they lose their leaves, etc. If you decide to chip away at the branches during that time, you’ll force it to keep growing, instead of letting it go to sleep. As you might’ve guessed, that’s going to put a lot of stress on the tree and quite frankly, most of the young branches won’t be able to survive the harsh winter temperatures because there won’t be enough time for them to develop a protective bark.

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In the best-case scenario, you’ll lose flowers, fruit and stump the new growth for about a year or two if you prune at the wrong time. Therefore, keep the pruning and trimming reserved for the early months of the year and you should be good.

Is There A Way To Fix A Botched Pruning Job?

If we’re being completely honest, no, you can’t fix your mistake. All you can do is wait and hope for the best. The good thing is, if you haven’t over-pruned, you’re probably not going to end up with a dead tree. Sure, it might not bloom or grow for a while, but it will recover after a few years, maybe even months. The best thing you can do at this point is to learn not to make the same mistake twice.


As you can see, mistiming the pruning can be quite detrimental to your lovely tree, but you’d have to do a pretty bad job at a pretty bad time for the worst outcome. In most cases, your tree should be able to fully recover, but it’s best not to force it into recovery in the first place. Prune the tree in February and you won’t have to worry about anything.