Trimming dead limbs from a pin oak

Asked May 2, 2016, 9:57 AM EDT

we have a 35-40 year old, 80-100' tall pin oak with a 20" diameter trunk. There are some dead limbs (some 5-6" diam) and a need for minor trimming of some live branches near a house. Most of the dead limbs are low down (15-30' from grade) and on the left side over our driveway. The canopy appears to be full and alive. We have seen some on line info that says do not trim an oak tree between April and October. Is this applicable to our tree? It was trimmed professionally approx. 10 years ago and most of the dead limbs have surfaced in the past 5-8 years. Are there guidelines regarding the trimming of dead and live limbs and branches? I have been unable to attach a current photo below. If you would like to see the photo, pls provide an email address to send it to.

Howard County Maryland

3 Responses

You can remove dead branches any time of year on any plant. The sooner the better. Just be careful not to leave a stub, but at the same time not cut a branch flush with the trunk. You want to leave the "collar", the raised puffy area where the branch attaches to the trunk, for fastest healing.

Minor, touch-up, type pruning can be done any time, too. What you do not want to do is prune heavily in the summer or early fall.

Please read over the general pruning info in our pruning pub:


Thx that was very helpful. What is "summer" in your response i.e. If we do the work in May we should be ok? June? Is it temperature related or when beetles are active or ?

Good question. Dormant period in winter or early spring is best for significant pruning. May is a little late. If we're having a cool, late spring, it may be okay. The sooner the better, to avoid the stress of healing when temperatures are high and water often scarce.

Another part of the equation is that trees pour a lot of energy into producing leaves in spring. That is wasted if the leafed-out branches are then pruned off. So, to save the tree's energy, pruning is often done before trees leaf out.