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When you plant trees in your Pennsylvania yard, there are quite a few things you need to take into consideration. You are putting your trees directly into the line of fire for everything that living in PA means: all four seasons with some extreme weather, tons of wildlife, and pruning. With our sometimes wacky weather, pruning can be a bit tough to figure out.

So when should you prune trees?

The best answer for this will differ for every yard and even every year. However, let’s take a look at five common trees in PA and when to prune them:

5. Western Redbud: Winter and/or After Blooming

  • Do not prune trees in the first few years
  • Start pruning regularly after the fifth year
  • Sterilize your tools when pruning for best results

If you have a Western Redbud tree, the first thing you need to know is that you should let it go for the first few years until it establishes itself. Most people recommend five years, but if your tree doesn’t look that bad, you can go longer than that. You really shouldn’t have to prune all that much at any point unless you have aesthetic problems or it is growing in a different direction.

When pruning, the USDA suggests only pruning to “remove suckers, crossed branches that may injure others and to maintain a rounded shape on a mature tree.”

Of course, you also have to pay attention to when you prune these trees. Do so in the winter months or right after the tree blooms to have the best impact. This will give the wounds time to heal. Even if you see dead wood, it might not be safe to prune outside of the approved times. If your tree has an infestation or a disease, pruning can be appropriate but make sure to contact a professional.

4. American Beech: As Needed

  • Prune to ornamental size if needed
  • Do not use improper technique
  • Only prune specific parts in the tree

American Beech trees will grow perfectly well when left on their own. They have a central trunk that grows straight up, making the tree strong and able to withstand quite a bit. For most homeowners, the tree will need very little pruning. However, you do have to do some trimming if there are cross sections that are competing for strength.

As your tree ages, it will become necessary to remove thin straight branches that pop up, also called suckers. Still, you have to prune when the tree is dormant in the colder months because you want to give it time to close and heal itself.

However, there is a second option for some people who are a little stricter about their trees – Oplin says that if you want a tree that looks ornamental, you can trim the tree more frequently.

3. Willow Oak: Late October to Early March (Dormant)

  • Remove mature branches first
  • Diseased or dead branches need to be removed
  • Focus on a strong, central leader

Willow Oak trees are notoriously strong, but you do need to prune them so that they can stay strong – removing competition for the central leader is key to growing your tree for years. To prune properly, you must be able to tell if your tree is dormant or not. If dormant, then you can trim without having to worry – in fact, you can trim and know that it will be able to withstand high winds, torrential downpours, and even snow.

However, the US Forest Service stresses that owners must pay attention to the lower branches of the tree. These get extremely heavy and can pull down your entire tree. This is a situation where you may want to seek professional help because it is tricky to get the dimensions correct.

2. Dawn Redwood: After the Needles Drop

  • Understand that pruning dictates foliage
  • Prune tree evenly for best result
  • Start with the lower branches

Pruning a Dawn Redwood tree is important if you want your tree to grow tall and strong. However, you do have to wait for the right moment or it will end up killing the tree instead. Wait until the needles turn into a rust color and some of them start to drop. You should wait until about 1/3 have dropped and then you can start pruning.

In a serious pruning year, Forestry Forum recommends cutting about 25% of the crown away – especially if you haven’t pruned in over five years.

As you prune, be sure to cut back to the joints of the tree. This keeps the tree healthy and directs the nutrients to the proper places. Wounds at the joints heal more quickly, which keeps the tree strong. Do not cut at random, because if the tree is just a bit unbalanced, it will tip in a storm.

1. European Hornbeam: Discover Your Options

  • Prune as drastically as you want
  • Prune during different seasons for different looks
  • Focus on precision

Younger European Hornbeams should be allowed to grow for at least five to six years before you start to prune it. The reason is that you won’t be able to see what your tree will become until that point. Once you do prune, you can prune dramatically, according to Louis the Plant Geek.

Pruning in the fall means that the hedge will stay sharper throughout the winter months but then will grow shaggier into the spring. You can prune later in the spring or even early summer to get a sharper shape throughout the growing season. This is the preferred time for many people because it gives you the best display in the autumn months.

Remember, you can only prune the tree this way when your tree has been established after a few years.

No matter what you do or when you prune, the best approach is always going to be to contact a professional to trim your trees. The best pruning happens when you have high quality tools that are needed for the precise cuts. If you don’t use the best tools, you are inviting pests and diseases into your tree and yard.

At Cutting Edge Tree Professionals, we will work with your trees and help to shape them into the trees that you’ve always wanted. We can read your trees, understanding the best time to prune all of your trees for what you actually want to happen.

Contact us today at (814) 240-2172 for a free consultation.

Header photo courtesy of osseous on Flickr!

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