Figuring out when to trim pine trees (Pinus spp.) can help them grow strong and healthy. Pine trees are a type of evergreen, which means they retain their leaves year-round. Unlike deciduous trees, pines have needle-like leaves with seed-bearing cones. They generally need less pruning.
Pine trees need to be trimmed only to remove dead or damaged branches or to encourage new growth. The best time of year to prune pine trees is late winter or early spring. Incorrect pruning could severely damage the development of the plant and, in some cases, even kill it.
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Trim pine trees to correct broken branches, disease and insect damage during the winter dormant season or to handle storm damage when it happens. Spring pruning is best for shaping the pine tree.
Trim Pine Trees: Corrective Reasons
Pruning trees can help encourage new growth, get rid of damaged areas and control growth. Pine trees are usually trimmed for corrective reasons to remove broken or diseased branches and manage insect infestations. This type of care helps keep the pine tree strong and healthy.
The best time of year to trim pine trees for corrective reasons is during the winter season, when the plant is in dormancy. This will encourage healthy growth of the tree for spring. Use a tree pruner to remove damaged areas in the late winter months.
However, if your tree has incurred unexpected damage from bad weather or other reasons, you should prune the tree immediately, no matter what time of year it is. When pruning a pine tree for corrective reasons, always cut back to the healthy branches, below the dead or diseased area. If you don't cut all of the old wood back, no new branches will develop.
Pruning Pine Tree Candles
During springtime, the chance of insect and disease invasion to your pine tree is less likely. Therefore, if you want to maintain the shape and size of your tree, you should trim after the first flush of growth in spring.
During this time, you should notice the growth of new shoots, or candles, at the tip of the branches. Cut these candles about halfway. This will help stimulate new buds and encourage density of the tree. If you want to maintain the development of your tree, repeat this process annually.
When Not to Trim
If you trim a pine tree during certain times, you risk damaging or even killing it. Unless your pine tree has had unexpected damage, avoid trimming it during the late summer or early fall. If you prune your tree during a dry summer season, you risk the chance of bark beetles attacking it. Bark beetles can attack a tree in such numbers that they can kill it.
Trimming during fall can also cause serious damage. Trimming a tree during any season will normally stimulate new growth. However, new growth stimulated during the fall may not wane before the start of winter. This could cause the pine tree to be damaged, or even killed, by the harshness of the cold weather.