Northern Red Oak

Oak Tree Pruning: It’s All about Timing!

Stately, mature oak trees are truly a sight to behold. These sturdy trees provide excellent shade, beauty in the landscape, and wildlife support. What’s not to love? Completing oak tree pruning when your trees are young is the best way to encourage a lovely shape when they mature.

While oaks are fairly carefree when it comes to disease, oak wilt is an increasing concern. Knowing when to prune is the best insurance you have against oak wilt infection! We recommend oak tree pruning when trees are dormant, preferably in late winter or very early spring when insects that spread oak wilt are not yet active. A good rule of thumb is to prune oaks no later than March 15th.

Along with timing, proper pruning technique further ensures the health and vigor of your oaks.

The basics of oak tree pruning:

Clean your pruners or loppers with rubbing alcohol and sanitize again before you move on to a new tree. More frequent sanitizing is even better!

Before you make any cuts, assess your tree. You should remove no more than 25% of the branches in one season.

Cut close enough so that you don’t leave a nub, but don’t cut into the branch collar- the swollen ring at the base of the branch. Mastering this technique is the best way to ensure your tree heals properly!

Thin branches that cross or touch and eliminate acute branch angles.

If desired, prune lower branches to make mowing under them easier and to allow sunlight to reach grass or plantings beneath the tree. You can slowly limb a tree up over a few seasons.

Cut off any diseased or damaged branches.

It can be tempting, but don’t use any pruning sealer or similar products. Your tree has an immune system just for this moment. Let it shine!

Want an even more in-depth look at proper pruning technique? Check out our blog on Tree Pruning Basics!