Late winter/early spring is often typically the time to trim tree and shrub branches because there is less risk of disease and the cuts stress the tree less. Deciduous trees can be pruned during other times of the year to remove dead or broken branches, but February through March is the best time to do this. The absence of leaves makes it far easier to see what needs to be pruned. The wounds are also able to heal prior to spring growth. Now is the time to consider what you are trying to accomplish with your pruning and how much is needed at this time.
What are you trying to achieve by pruning a certain plant? Are you simply trying to remove dead branches or are you trying to train it to grow a certain way? Your goal for the plant should dictate where and how much trimming is needed.
It is always better to prune a little than to prune too much. Removing more than 25 percent of the crown can harm a tree’s ability to make food and its growth potential. Depending on your goal for a particular plant, you may have to prune on a regular basis. Topiaries and formal hedges require special upkeep in the pruning department, so keep that in mind before starting.
Species and Condition:
Some plant species require more pruning, while others do not. Take a look at the condition of the plant and if it sick or diseased, be sure to remove any dead or diseased wood.
Having the right tools makes pruning much easier. Be sure to keep the tool sterile and sharp since dull blades can shred branches and dirty ones can spread disease to other plants. Pruning shears can be used for smaller branches, while lopping shears are required for larger ones. Handsaws can handle branches over 1 inch in diameter. Pole saws allow an extended reach but must be used carefully to make clean cuts. Hedge shears are made for pruning hedges alone.