Is it a bad idea to prune conifers when the ground is frozen solid?

I'm thinking about going up about 7' on a 30' tall tree.

1 Answer 1


Black thumb the middle of winter is just fine to prune anything. I prune a little on any and all plants any old time when I've got the pruners sharpened sterilized and in my hands. I love to prune.

If you are thinking of limbing up the trunk of your conifer, 7'? you should have a good reason why. It is sort of a no no for aesthetics as well as health of a conifer. If you do this you should also thin the rest of the tree to allow wind to flow through the tree. When people limb up a conifer without thinning they are the first ones to find a broken tree after a big wind. All conifer trees should be thinned; never topped nor limbed up. Unless you have a good reason and I've known those reasons and worked around them. Just go up inside your tree and thin branches choosing the weakest, most non productive branches to cut from the main trunk. Allowing air to flow through without catching a 'sail' so to speak. And prune no more than 1/3 of that tree, even during the winter.

  • our tree is starting to overgrow the driveway, and it would be a great bramble space for permaculture design. Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 2:06
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    IF the ground is frozen solid, the wood above ground will also be frozen solid. IMO pruning any plant in that state is not a good idea, if only because it's easier to damage the plant rather than making clean cuts. There is nothing wrong with pruning in winter of course - though whether it's advisable to "prune" an evergreen conifer at all (as opposed to taking out complete branches) is another question. (and the answer is usually "no, unless you want a tree with a lot of dead brown foliage on it")
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 18:44
  • @alephzero can you post this as an answer, even if the other answer's been accepted - for the benefit of future readers, you make a highly relevant point.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 20:34
  • The vascular system of trees is like leaving a dripping faucet, keeps the cambium from freezing. Thinning conifers is important for air flow. I am not sure what you mean as opposed to taking out entire branches? That would be thinning. Removing branches that aren't doing the tree any good and the tree will slowly but surely abscise those branches anyway. I am fairly sure that trees are not frozen solid in the winter. Bark has air filled cork layers that are great insulation. Different trees have different mechanisms. Some use other chemicals to raise the freezing point.
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 20:47
  • Heading and shearing conifers is rarely done, arborvitae for example needs careful shearing. I also wrap certain conifers in the winter with burlap and twine, some with old fashioned incandescent christmas lights beneath the burlap. That would be for trees a bit outside their proper zone...and once a humongous Jelly Palm. It is still alive today in the Northwest! In relation to the parts of a plant; the weakest or most fragile part are the roots, next are the leaves (thus deciduous) but the trunk and branches do not freeze unless out of these zone or a very bad winter. Maunder Minimum?
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 31, 2018 at 20:54

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