While light pruning can be done any time of year, late winter and early spring are an excellent time for full-tree pruning. Prune before the tree has begun setting leaves so its resources are devoted to recovery.
Dead and diseased branches should be removed first, then secondary cuts for shape, structure (no lopsided trees!) and ventilation.
More on how to prune fruit trees or shade trees.
We also recommend professional arborists like The Davey Tree Expert Company and Lumber Jack & Jill Tree Service to do the work for you. Tall, old or diseased trees are not only an eyesore, but also a hazard for people and property.
Originally published on March 5th, 2011. Updated on March 3rd, 2020.