Best Time to Cut Conifers for Healthy Growth

Conifer hedge in need of pruning by a tree surgeon

When is the Best Time to Cut Conifers?

Conifers are popular in British gardens as they make great hedges for privacy and boundaries.

These evergreen trees add beauty, privacy, and structure to outdoor spaces. However, to ensure their healthy growth and maintain their desired shape, it is crucial to prune them at the right time of year. But, when is the best time to cut conifers?

This guide will explain the best time of year to prune and trim conifer trees.

So, let’s dive in.

Conifer tree

What is a Conifer?

Conifers, also known as coniferous trees, are a group of trees and shrubs that belong to the division Pinophyta. Unlike deciduous trees that shed their leaves in autumn, conifers are evergreen, retaining their green foliage throughout the year.

These trees have needle-like or scale-like leaves, cone-shaped fruits, and straight, upward-growing branches. Some common examples of conifers include pine, spruce, fir, and cypress trees.

Conifers are known for their rapid growth and ability to reach impressive heights. Some species, such as the Douglas fir and Scots pine, can grow up to 100 meters tall. However, there are also dwarf varieties of conifers that have a slower growth rate and remain smaller in size.

Conifers also provide privacy when planted as hedges or screening trees, act as windbreaks, and offer shelter and food for wildlife. The dense foliage of conifers also helps to reduce noise pollution and improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen.

Tip: If you’re not sure if your tree or hedge is a conifer, use the Google Lens app to identify what it is.

What Time of Year Should You Cut Conifers?

The best time to prune conifers is from April to August.

Many conifer trees in the UK benefit from pruning during the late spring or early summer when they are pushing out new growth.

Pines with their long needles in groups, arborvitaes with soft needle sprays along the stems, junipers with foliage borne in branch sprays, and Chamaecyparis varieties with silver X markings on the undersides of similar juniper-like foliage should all be trimmed during this timeframe.

Careful pruning when new shoots emerge allows for size control and regular shaping without excessive damage to the plants. However, the amount to cut back should be reasonable to avoid overly stressing the conifer trees.

Other types like Douglas firs, firs, spruces, hemlocks, and yews may need dormant pruning in late winter or late summer instead when not actively growing.

Hedge maintenance and trimming Newbury

If you need help pruning your tree, get in touch with the experts at Evolution Tree Surgery. We’re on hand to help with all aspects of tree pruning, crown reduction, crown lifting, and crown thinning in Newbury, Berkshire and the surrounding areas.

If you’d like a free quote, call us at 07917 195806 or complete our online enquiry form.

How to Cut Conifers Correctly

Here are some key steps to follow when pruning your conifers:

  1. Determine the desired length: Before you start cutting, decide on the desired length or shape you want for your conifers. This will guide your pruning process and ensure that you achieve the desired results.
  2. Start with larger branches: Begin by removing any larger branches that are dead, damaged, or interfering with the tree’s structure. Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar, the swollen area where the branch connects to the trunk.
  3. Use proper pruning techniques: When trimming smaller branches, use the appropriate pruning technique. For thin branches, use pruning shears to make clean cuts just above a bud or junction. For larger branches, use a pruning saw or shears with long handles to make controlled cuts.
  4. Step back and assess: Periodically step back and assess the tree’s shape. This will help you identify any areas that need further pruning or adjustments to achieve the desired aesthetic.

Step-by-Step Guide to Pruning Conifers

Here is a step-by-step guide to pruning conifers:

  1. Assess the tree: Identify any dead or diseased branches and remove them first. This will promote the overall health and vitality of the tree.
  2. Determine the desired size and shape: Decide on the size and shape you want for your conifers. Keep in mind the specific needs of the tree and any restrictions, such as maintaining a conifer hedge.
  3. Begin trimming: Start at the top and work your way down, trimming small sections at a time. Use sharp pruning shears or hedge trimmers to make clean cuts. Avoid cutting too close to the trunk or leaving stubs.
  4. Maintain balance and symmetry: Step back periodically to assess the tree’s shape and ensure it remains balanced and symmetrical.
  5. Regularly trim new growth: To maintain the desired size and shape, regularly trim any new growth that exceeds the boundaries you have set.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when cutting conifers:

  • Cutting during the wrong season: The best time to trim your conifers is from Spring until late Summer in September.
  • Cutting too much: Conifers should not be cut back more than one-third of their total height in a single season. Cutting too much can cause the tree to become weak and susceptible to disease.
  • Using dull tools: Using dull tools can cause damage to the tree and make the cutting process more difficult. Make sure to use sharp tools to achieve clean cuts.
  • Cutting too close to the trunk: Cutting too close to the trunk can damage the bark and lead to disease. It is best to leave a small amount of the branch collar when cutting.
  • Not considering the tree’s age: Young conifers should not be cut back too much as it can stunt their growth. Older conifers can handle more aggressive pruning, but it is still important not to cut back more than one-third of their total height in a single season.

Benefits of Proper Pruning Timing

Promotes Growth

Pruning at the right time can stimulate growth in conifers. Cutting back the branches during the active growing season can encourage the tree to produce new growth. This new growth can help fill out the tree’s shape, making it look fuller and more vibrant.

Prevents Disease

Pruning at the correct time can help prevent the spread of disease in conifers. Cutting back branches during the dormant season can help reduce the risk of fungal infections and other diseases. This is because the tree is less vulnerable to infections during its dormant phase.

Improves Aesthetics

Pruning at the right time can help improve the overall appearance of conifers. Properly timed pruning can help maintain the tree’s shape and size, making it look neat and well-maintained. It can also help remove any dead or damaged branches, which can detract from the tree’s appearance.

Increases Safety

Pruning at the correct time can help improve the safety of conifers. Removing any dead or damaged branches can prevent them from falling and causing injury or damage to property. Additionally, pruning can help reduce the risk of branches interfering with power lines or other structures.

Hedge Trimming & Maintenance Berkshire

Need Help Cutting Your Conifer?

While conifers require very little pruning to maintain their shape, it is important to ensure that the pruning is done correctly and at the right time of year to promote healthy growth and prevent damage to the tree.

By hiring a professional tree surgeon, you can ensure that your conifers receive the care they need to thrive.

At Evolution Tree Surgery, we offer tree pruning for residential and commercial customers in Newbury and the surrounding areas in Berkshire.

For a FREE tree pruning quote, call Evolution Tree Surgery in Newbury at 07917 195806 .

Frequently Asked Questions

When to cut conifers in the UK?

The best time to prune conifers in the UK is late spring, when new shoots emerge, giving the best results for size control and regular pruning.

How do you trim conifers without killing them?

Trimming conifers requires care to avoid cutting into old wood, damaging the growing tip, or removing too many new shoots, which can kill the type of conifer.

Is it OK to cut the top off a conifer?

Cutting the top off a conifer is generally not a good way to control its size and can lead to uneven growth or rot in the centre.

Can you cut conifers anytime?

While conifers like yew and juniper can be trimmed in August, it’s generally advisable to prune most conifers in late spring for the best results and size control.

Why do conifers go brown in the middle?

Conifers may turn brown in the middle due to lack of air circulation, scale insects, honey fungus, or simply old wood dying off if not regularly pruned.

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If you require the services of a qualified tree surgeon then simply give us a call. Whether you’re looking for a FREE consultation, or have a particular query, our qualified tree surgeons can help you.

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