When Can I Prune My Oak Trees?

Written by jennifer loucks
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When Can I Prune My Oak Trees?
Prune an oak tree during the dormant season. (old oak tree image by Vortigern69 from Fotolia.com)

Pruning is a gardening technique of removing or reducing the size of branches. Oak trees are susceptible to diseases that enter through open wounds. It is important to prune oak trees during the correct time of the growing season. This will reduce or prevent the risk of pest or disease problems. Remove 10 per cent or less of the tree foliage each year to prevent placing excessive stress on the tree.

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Crown Shape

Train and shape oak trees by pruning branches during the first three years of growth. Remove low branches if you want to force a tall, arching crown on your oak tree. It is also important to prune off branches that have a narrow crotch to prevent weak branches or branches that rub on each other. Mature oak trees require less frequent pruning. Prune the canopy by removing dead or damaged branches every year. Thin out a mature canopy every three to five years by removing branches with a narrow crotch or those growing the wrong direction.

Dormant Pruning

Oak trees respond best to pruning when you complete it during the fall and winter dormant season. Trees go into a resting stage during the winter months, so there is lower risk of damage through the pruning wound. Reduce the length of branches by cutting them off approximately 1/4 inch above a branch bud facing away from the tree to promote branch growth in the correct direction. Remove branches by cutting them just above the branch collar, without leaving a long stub.

Summer Pruning

The University of Minnesota warns against pruning oak trees during the active growing months. This is generally during the late spring and summer months of April through August for most growing areas. The pruning wounds may ooze sap during these months. This prevents quick healing and opens the tree to a host of diseases and pests. If you must perform an emergency pruning during these months, apply a tree wound paint to help seal the area.


Take the time to disinfect pruning equipment before using them on the oak tree, even when pruning during the dormant season. A water solution that contains 10 per cent bleach works for cleaning. Wash the tools each time you move to a new tree or after removing a diseased branch. This will lower your risk of spreading infection.

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