Two questions: 1 - I have a fringe tree in my front yard that appears to have...

Asked May 13, 2015, 11:48 PM EDT

Two questions: 1 - I have a fringe tree in my front yard that appears to have a fair amount of dead wood on it after the winter. When, and how should I prune it? 2 - Siberian lilacs in the front of my house are out of control. They're just starting to bloom. When, and how should I prune those as well? Thanks!

Hennepin County Minnesota

3 Responses

Thank you for the question. A tree can be pruned anytime you see dead, injured branches or if you feel like a branch may fall and injure a person or property. The dead wood can pruned now. Elective pruning of an oak tree needs to be done during winter to reduce the risk of oak wilt. I'm including a link to this reply that will explain to you how to make proper pruning cuts that result in the best chance for the tree to recover.

I'm not familiar with a Siberian lilac but if it looks, smells and blooms when lilacs usually bloom, the time to prune is right after blooming ends. If you prune before or later in the summer, you will cut off the branches that will bloom next spring and you lilac will have no blooms. There are ways of pruning lilacs to keep them under control. If you like, you can cut the entire shrub down to the ground and resume regular pruning when it reaches the desirable height. If this seems too drastic, you can cut out 1/3 of the oldest, thickest canes each year and let one or two ground suckers grow. This will gradually rejuvenate your lilac.

Learn more by reading this University of Minnesota Extension publication on pruning trees and shrubs

Thank you for contacting Extension.

Thanks, Anita. However, the tree in question is a fringe tree, a small ornamental tree. The fringe tree maxes out around 30-40 and produces white blooms every spring. My tree right now is around 12' high. There is one large root, as well as about a half-dozen auxiliary roots for the tree. What I'm wondering is if I can cut the dead branches now, or if (like my lilacs) I should wait until after the flowers bloom.

If I understand you correctly, the branch is dead but other parts of the tree are blooming. If the branch is dead, there will be no blooms on it and you can prune it out now.