<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=379808255917134&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Outdoor Living Design: 6 Modern Outdoor Elements to Set Your Next Project Apart

Read more


Caring for your ornamental trees and shrubs can sometimes feel like a lot of work. While you understand that a well-landscaped home will help contribute to your property’s overall value, you may not be clear on what landscaping tasks are most important to put your energy into.

A big part of landscape maintenance is keeping up with tree and shrub care.

One aspect of proper tree and shrub care is pruning. While people sometimes think of pruning as a springtime task, there are many species that can benefit from dormant pruning.

In this article, we’ll talk about how winter tree pruning can be beneficial to certain ornamental trees and woody shrubs. Understanding which plants should be pruned (and when) is important when it comes to getting the best results.

The Importance of Proper Pruning Timing

Before we go any further talking about dormant pruning, we want to take a moment to discuss the importance of pruning timing in general.

We find that a lot of homeowners are not well-educated on proper pruning techniques. The truth is, there’s more to it than people tend to realize but when you make mistakes, you risk harming or even killing your plants.

pruning on a sea green juniper evergreen shrub showing cuttings atop the rest of the plant

We know that it can be tempting to want to get out there on a weekend and prune everything at once. But it’s really important to know what types of trees and shrubs you have on your property and what time of year they are best pruned.

For many species, the timing really does matter. For instance, Azaleas have a short pruning window and if you prune too late, you could ruin their flowering ability or even leave them prone to disease and insect problems.

The key to success boils down to understanding what plants are on your property and how to best care for them.

What to Prune in Winter?

Dormant pruning is most commonly performed on deciduous trees and shrubs, which are those that shed their leaves annually. These ornamental trees and shrubs are easier to prune in the winter when branches are not covered in foliage.

It’s easier to see which branches are best to prune and to make structural changes to the tree or shrub during this time.

Of course, other ornamental tree and shrub types can also be pruned in the winter, but some caution needs to be exercised. For instance, when making pruning decisions, it is important to pay attention to bloom time.

Early spring bloomers should not be pruned in the winter as these plants produce flowers on older branches (which would typically be pruned off during a pruning session).


Those flower buds formed during your last growing season and went into dormancy for the winter. Pruning them off in winter means fewer blooms the next growing season. As a result, early spring bloomers are typically pruned in late spring or early summer.

Instead, focus your winter pruning efforts on late spring and summer bloomers. These are plants that bloom later in the spring and typically on new wood that forms during the active growing season.

Examples of late spring and summer blooming plants in Northern Virginia include:

  • Beautyberry
  • Abelia
  • Hydrangea
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Virginia Sweetspire

While you have to be most careful with blooming plants, evergreens are much more forgiving. Generally, it is best to prune non-coniferous evergreens during the dormant season.

Boxwoods are a very common evergreen plant here in Northern Virginia that many properties have. You can use dormant pruning on your Boxwood shrubs.

What is the Benefit of Dormant Pruning?

For plants that can be pruned in the winter, this time makes a lot of sense for a few key reasons.

A key reason why winter pruning is optimal timing is the fact that your trees and shrubs are already in a “period of rest.” They’re not under a lot of stress due to intense heat and reduced water (like in the summer) or because of actively growing (like in the spring).

landscape maintenance technician pruning an evergreen shrub on the side of a house with gas shears

The spread of disease and pest problems also tends to be reduced because most pests and diseases are not active in the winter.

Anytime that you prune your trees and shrubs, you open them up to new threats. Those pruning cuts (or “wounds”) become temporarily weakened points in the tree where a pest or disease could enter. But that’s not the case in the winter.

Winter pruning can also result in improved growth in the spring. When you prune in the winter, new foliage has ample time to harden off before the difficult summer conditions begin to stress your plant.

How Often Do I Need to Prune?

A common mistake that homeowners sometimes make with pruning is not keeping up with it. But there are many benefits to keeping up with pruning. It definitely improves the health of your ornamental trees and shrubs. But it also helps to maintain the aesthetics.

Don’t wait until your small trees and woody shrubs are a complete mess to prune. It makes sense to get on a regular rotation with a professional pruning service that can help keep your trees and shrubs in optimal shape and health.

The bare minimum for a pruning plan with Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape is twice a year but for most properties, this really is not often enough.

As you probably already know, your ornamental trees and shrubs grow quickly and it doesn’t take long for them to look messy again.

But pruning often is also better for the plant’s health. You want to aim for pruning less of the plant (but more frequently). Optimally, we recommend every other month (which comes out to five times per year). That would be the sweet spot for proper pruning.

landscape maintenance technician hand-pruning a juniper evergreen shrub

Another benefit to keeping up with pruning is that it will help make your landscape look more “natural” and less obvious that it has been pruned. We equate this to getting a haircut. You most likely are looking to maintain your look rather than only ever going in for a drastic cut.

Regular pruning helps you maintain a natural, attractive landscape. This also helps you maintain your property value.

Choosing Professional Landscape and Lawn Care Services in Northern VA

As you might have gathered, pruning can be pretty complex.

While many trees and shrubs can benefit from dormant pruning, others are best pruned at different times of the year. It’s important to know what types of trees and shrubs you have on your property and when it is most beneficial to prune them.

The best way to get the most out of pruning services is to partner with a professional in Springfield, Alexandria, or Arlington, VA. A pro is going to know exactly what should be pruned (and when) to get the most possible benefits.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to have to worry about pruning mistakes that could ruin your landscape. When you choose to partner with a professional, you can let go of those worries and let them take the lead.

In addition to timing, there are a few other key considerations that a professional should be taking before pruning.

These include:

  • Hand-pruning varieties that need extra care. Not all trees and shrubs should be pruned with power equipment.
  • Taking your personal preferences into account.
  • Maintaining sharp tools in excellent condition.

You want to work with a company that takes extra steps and has the expertise to know the intricacies of proper pruning. After all, it’s the value of your property that we’re talking about here. There is simply no room for error.

Expert Shrub Pruning in Springfield, Alexandria and Arlington, VA

When you make a wise choice in pruning professionals, you’ll not only be able to hand over the hassles associated with this service, but you’ll also ensure better results.

Our landscape maintenance teams offer multiple pruning plans to boost the health and beauty of your small trees and woody shrubs.

  • Monthly Pruning (During the Growing Season)
  • Periodic Pruning (Once Every Two Months, or 5x Yearly)
  • Seasonal Pruning (Twice per Year)

In addition, our Winter Pruning service is a great option for plants that benefit from dormant or cold-weather pruning (like Crape Myrtle and others), as well as cutbacks of expired ornamental grasses.

At Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape, we set our clients up on a pruning schedule that’s right for their property so that they can ensure their landscape is always looking and performing its best. It fully removes the burden from your plate and allows you to simply keep enjoying your property to the fullest.

Are you ready to ditch the worries associated with keeping your trees and shrubs well-maintained? Get started today! Request a quote, get your customized plan, and relax as you let us get to work.

Request a Maintenance Quote

Krisjan Berzins - Owner, CEO

Since 1997, Krisjan has led the Kingstowne team with one simple philosophy, treat every customer like the “only” customer. His passionate pursuit of impeccable customer service has resulted in 24 successful years and a thriving company with over 85 employees, helping thousands of homeowners in the Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA area get what they want -- a worry-free property they can be proud of.