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Winter Tree Care Tips From The Morton Arboretum

November 17, 2014

LISLE, Illinois (Nov. 17, 2014) — The Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum fields nearly 1,400 questions a year, and in the winter months, pruning is a popular topic. Best done during the winter, pruning is a simple task that will help your bushes and trees stay healthy all year long.

 “Pruning is best done this time of year because you can see the shape and form of the tree,” said Doris Taylor, plant information specialist at the Plant Clinic. “Pruning is critical to the health of a tree because it lets in sunlight and air, allowing leaves to dry faster after a rain and lessening the chance of disease.”  

It’s also important to prune when branches or stems interfere with walkways or grow too close to a roof or other structure, according to Taylor.


The Morton Arboretum’s Plant Clinic offers these tips for winter tree pruning:

  • Determine if the branch is alive or dead before cutting.  If in doubt, nick the branch with a pruning tool. A layer of green will appear underneath if the branch is living.
  • Remove dead, diseased and crossing branches first. Branches that cross can rub against one another, creating a wound in the tree.
  • Do not prune wet branches, as this causes disease to spread.
  • Step back and assess your pruning as you go. Taylor finds that homeowners often remove too many large branches at the same time. While moderate pruning helps the tree thrive over time, it is difficult for the plant to heal itself when too many are cut at one time.
  • If the pruning job requires you to get on a ladder, consult a professional certified arborist. Only prune if your feet can stay on the ground.


Housed on the Arboretum’s grounds and available in person, by phone or via email, the Plant Clinic is staffed by experts and trained volunteers. For questions about pruning best practices, call the clinic at 630-719-2424 or email plantclinic@mortonarb.org

The Morton Arboretum thanks Bartlett Tree Experts for its generous support of the Plant Clinic.

About The Morton Arboretum
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum on 1,700 acres. Plant collections, scientific research and education programs support the mission to plant and conserve trees and other plants for a greener, healthier and more beautiful world. Designed with natural landscapes, the grounds include the award-winning, four-acre interactive Children’s Garden, the one-acre MazeGarden, plus specialty gardens, 16 miles of trails and nine miles of roads. Visitor experiences include the open-air tram ride, guided walks, Arbor Day celebrations, concerts, art shows, the Fall Color Festival, Illumination and special exhibits. The Arboretum welcomes 885,000 visitors annually and receives support from 38,600 member households.  Located 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open daily 7 a.m. until sunset. Learn more at mortonarb.org.