I have read or viewed conflicting information regarding when is the best time to prune deciduous material. Numerous articles say Fall, at or just after, leaf drop is the best time but many others say don’t prune until just before or at bud swell. This leaves me wondering when I should prune my elms, pomegranates, deciduous oaks, plums, crepe myrtle, liquidambar, crabapple, lindens, hawthorn and others. Is it dependent species by species or is there a general rule? Most everything I have is in development or transitioning towards refinement. I’m in zone 9 in central CA and it rarely gets below 30*F here, if that matters. Any thoughts on this predicament would be appreciated.
My understanding is that either can be done and there are pros and cons to both.
Fall - Best done in the two weeks after leaf drop since the tree will have stored most resources and still has the energy to compartmentalize the wound. However, the tree should be protected from freezes to avoid die back (light frosts are probably OK). I would limit to smaller cuts and not the major cuts which are probably best done in summer after the new growth hardens.
Spring - The tree will be at the maximum stored energy and can most easily compartmentalize and heal the wounds. However, some species (Acer for example) are prone to sap bleeding unless the timing is perfect. In addition, most of us are busy with repotting and the bonsai shuffle when facing late frosts.
I am doing more and more fall pruning since I store my better trees in a poly tunnel that I keep just above freezing. I even cut back early developmental material that will be allowed to freeze in an unheated poly tunnel, but leave it a node or two long to allow for die back.
I live in Southern California and a lot of deciduous trees of mine, never act truly deciduous. My elms hold leaves and grow all year. Slower in the winter, but still very noticeably growing. This year I am going to try and leave my “deciduous” in the fall and do the work come spring (February/March for me). I don’t think if you wait, it will have negative consequences on the species you listed, based on the stages they are in.
Wiring is a little easier this time of year since you could remove the remaining leaves once they start dropping leaves, and have unobstructed branches. Otherwise, I find with my broadleafs (evergreen and deciduous), spring was a better choice for me this year. And will see next year when it’s been 1 full year
Thanks so much for the input. Maybe I was overthinking the Fall or Spring pruning work. Good tips on freeze protection if Fall pruned but yes Spring is a very hectic time. I’ll probably prune some trees in Fall and maybe a few in Spring and see if I can detect any pros & cons on my own trees.