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The Best Time of Year to Prune Oak Trees

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While pruning your oak tree is important to the tree's health, choosing the right time of the year to do the work is almost equally important. With the proper pruning and timing, your oak trees will live longer and look healthier.


The best time to do a maintenance pruning on your oak tree is in the late winter to early spring, before the new leaves open. However, if your tree is diseased or has dead branches, you can prune them at anytime of the year.

Time Frame

According to the University of Florida, pruning your tree is most crucial in its first years. You should prune the tree annually during its first three years and then switch to pruning it every five years.


If you prune your tree in early or mid-winter, the cutting of the branches can shock the tree and stunt new growth. Consequently, if you prune the tree during the summer or fall, the cuts you make may not have the proper amount of time to heal and lose protection from the winter.

Oak Trees

Oak trees are in our poems, songs and legends. Oaks are part of the Quercus genus, and there are about 600 species. The Roman poet Virgil once wrote, “Full in the midst of his own strength he stands, stretching his brawny arms and leafy hands.” Red oaks have leaves with pointed lobes and small bristles at the tip. Black oak trees have smooth, gray bark and its leaves turn bright red in the fall. Willow oaks have thin, straight leaves, resembling those of a willow tree. Willow oaks grow 60 to 75 feet tall. These oaks prefer the warm, coastal Southeast, but they will grow inland in protected areas. Pin oaks make a nice shade tree. Acorns mature after a year, and these trees sprout soon after falling to the ground. Varieties include chinkapin, post oak, bur oak and white oak. But one day, it will be 50 feet high. This oak will be found further north and west than other oaks. Live oaks are often seen draped in Spanish moss and bring to mind images of southern weddings and historic small towns. Symptoms are most severe in dry summers because the bacterium blocks the water-conducting vessels that move water from the roots to the leaves. Leaves usually remain on the tree until they drop in the fall. Symptoms show on red, scarlet, black and pin oaks. It is spread by root grafts, so it affects trees in close proximity. Because of their size and longevity, oaks are symbols of honor, nobility and wisdom. Later, many parishes adopted an oak to be the Gospel Oak, and springtime ceremonies would take place beneath it. Plant oak trees where they’ll have a lot of room to grow. A good rule of thumb is to give an oak space to grow 80 feet tall and 80 feet wide. Most oaks can grow as far north as zones 4 and 5, and some varieties can grow in zone 3.

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