Pruning Flowering Trees

Flowering trees provide a flush of spring color and beauty, followed by summer shade and sometimes even some edible fruits. Keeping these trees healthy and beautiful requires annual tree trimming.


Even healthy trees end up with some weak, dead, or damaged wood in the crown. Trimming out these dead or dying branches opens up the crown for more sunlight, which allows the healthy branches to produce more leaf and flower buds. Further, it removes weak branches that are more susceptible to insect pests and disease organisms.

Flowering trees also look nicer when their basic shape is maintained, which means trimming back faster-growing branches so that the crown keeps its natural ovoid to round shape. Further, proper trimming encourages budding, which leads to more flowers next year. You can also trim to help manage the size of the tree, as long as you trim annually. Once new growth has matured, which takes about a year, it is difficult to trim back a tree drastically without stressing it.


When to prune a flowering tree depends on the flower season. Those that flower in late spring and early summer put on new growth in early spring. These should be trimmed before this happens so that you don't remove all of the new flower buds. Late winter before the new growth begins to emerge is the optimum time to prune these ornamental trees.

Pruning spring-blooming trees in winter means you will lose flowers because these trees put on their new buds in early summer after they are done flowering for the spring season. Trim spring-flowering trees in late spring or early summer after flowering is over so you can preserve as many flower buds for next year as possible. 


There are two main techniques for pruning flowering trees — thinning and heading. Thinning cuts remove all of the dead and damaged branches back to the nearest healthy wood. Thinning is also used to open up dense crowns where branches are rubbing together or developing weak growth patterns, such as drooping branch habits.

Heading, also called heading back, is used to reduce crown size as well as to maintain the basic shape of the crown. This is where each branch tip is cut back, usually by no more than a third of its length, to create a more compact and pleasantly shaped tree canopy.

Contact a tree trimming service for more help with your flowering tree care needs.