When to Prune in the Santa Barbara Area


Landscape trees can be separated into three generalized types of trees: broadleaf (deciduous and green all year), conifer (also called evergreen), and palms.  Pruning of each type includes unique needs and timing to result in the healthiest, safest, and most aesthetically pleasing trees possible.

Pruning Mature Broadleaf Trees

Mature trees need to be pruned for health and appearance, size control, and flowering/fruiting response.  Removal of deadwood, weak, diseased, and insect or fungus-infected limbs will improve tree health, appearance, and decrease the risk of damage to buildings or other personal property.

Pruning can also open up the top of the tree to let in more light for increased health of interior leaves and branches in addition to increase your view and aesthetic appearance.  Reducing overall height and lifting up the canopy can be completed without altering the overall natural shape of your tree.


Pruning Mature Conifer Trees

As with broadleaf trees, removal of deadwood, weak, structurally unsound, or crowded stems will improve the tree health.  However, with most conifers, it is important to keep the natural growth pattern so it is important to know what the mature conifer shape of your tree is supposed to be.

Pruning Palm Trees

Depending on what you want to keep in check, palm trees can be trimmed once to twice a year for flower or fruit removal or every couple years for frond removal.  If the pollen (and associated bees) is an issue then June to July is a good time to remove the flowers.  If not, then after mid-July is a good time to remove any dead fronds and seed pods.


When Not To Prune

  • Pruning of the central trunk of a tree or topping is inappropriate.  This destroys a tree’s natural shape, can create unnecessary wounds, and can cause upright stems with weak attachments.
  • Severe or excessive pruning can delay the onset of flowering on trees that produce flowers on new stem growth only (flowering fruit trees).
  • Landscape trees should not be pruned at planting except to remove damaged branches or correct serious structural problems.  Removal of branches and branch ends (terminal or lateral buds) from newly transplanted trees can stunt new root growth.

Final Thought

It is best to get the pruning done before the Santa Ana winds flair up and the rainy season starts (November if we are lucky).  That way there will be less to clean up in your yard and less damage from falling branches