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Pruning Question: Is Fall Pruning of Trees and Shrubs OK?

Can I prune trees and shrubs in the fall?

It's usually not a good idea to prune trees or shrubs in the fall, for a couple of reasons. First, pruning can trigger a flush of new growth. If this occurs in the fall, the new growth may not have time to harden before freezing weather sets in, leading to damage. Secondly, if the tree or shrub in question flowers on "old wood" (in other words, it has already set its flower buds that will open next spring or summer), then pruning in the fall would remove them and diminish next year's flower display.

Wait until midwinter, when the plant is dormant, to prune trees and shrubs that will form flower buds on new wood, in the spring. Wait until just after the plant blooms to prune those that set buds on old wood (this includes bigleaf hydrangea, forsythia and quince).


Have questions about pruning? Check out The Pruning Answer Book for advice on how to prune successfully.

Learn more about how to care for trees and shrubs with the Trees & Shrubs Digital Value Pack

Find out more ways to prepare your garden for fall by downloading the Smart Gardening Techniques: Fall Tasks

Make pruning easier and more stylish with the pink Mini Pruning Set

Expand your knowledge on fall pruning and plan for spring with the Garden How-To University: Fall Gardening Tips & Spring Planning