Winter Is the Season to Prune Trees

Now is a good time for tree pruning, while temperatures remain cold, according to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tree health experts.

“The best time to prune trees in Wisconsin is during winter when a tree is dormant,” said DNR Urban Forester Don Kissinger. This is because:

  • Insects and diseases that attack open wounds on pruned trees aren’t active in winter, and
  • Without leaves on the trees it is easier to see and prune broken, cracked or hanging limbs.

“Pruning oak trees during winter is a good practice to help prevent introduction of oak wilt,” said Kyoko Scanlon, DNR Forest Pathologist. Oak wilt is a fatal disease of oaks. During the winter, beetles that carry oak wilt spores to healthy oak trees are not active.

To help reduce the spread of oak wilt another way, do not move firewood. “Several recent oak wilt finds in northern Wisconsin were probably the result of infected firewood brought from areas with oak wilt,” said Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist for northwest Wisconsin.

Keep oak firewood where it is cut for one year, or until the bark is naturally loose, to prevent the spread of oak wilt.

For additional information online, search for keywords “oak wilt.”

Pruning tips

Trees should be pruned throughout their entire life to maintain strong structure and remove dead wood. “Pruning should not remove more than 25 percent of the live crown of a tree. The lower third of trunks of deciduous trees should be free of limbs,” Kissinger said. The DNR pruning brochure offers more detailed, step-by-step tips for tree pruning. Find it by searching the DNR website,, for “tree pruning.”

Certified arborists who offer pruning and other tree care services can be found at


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