How To Properly Prepare Your Trees For Spring

The warm weather and new leaf growth brings with it a need for extra care and attention. Our ISA-certified arborists have put together a list of five easy steps to properly prepare your trees for spring. 

Remove Winter Debris 

The winter months can be a rough time for your trees and shrubs. Snow, ice, and wind can do a number on them, but spring is the perfect time to give your landscaping a good once over. The best way to start is by removing any lingering debris left over from last fall. This includes anything that fell from the tree during a winter storm, pinecones, dead grass, and leaves. Next on your list should be a complete mulching job to protect the roots of your trees and flowers for years to come. You can use your mower to run over the larger sized leaves or chop them up with a mulching machine. Be sure to add a layer of mulch around each plant to help prevent moisture loss in the warmer months. 


Pruning is a process of cutting away dead or diseased wood to keep a tree healthy and strong. It also improves the tree’s shape, removes overgrown branches, and increases its capacity for photosynthesis. The correct pruning depends on the season and type of tree or shrub. It should be light and focused on removing any dead, damaged, or diseased wood that may be threatening to your tree or your home. 

Early Spring: Prune summer-flowering trees and shrubs that bloom on the current season’s growth (new wood). These include panicle hydrangea, rose-of-Sharon, summersweet, bush honeysuckle, Japanese spirea, and lilac. Fruit trees should be trimmed in late winter to mid-spring to prevent excessive watersprouts (long, thin, straight branches that grow upward). Watersprouts can be unsightly and are more likely to sprout on fruit-bearing trees. 

After Spring: Don’t prune spring-flowering bushes that bloom on last season’s growth until after they have finished flowering. If you prune them too early, you’ll remove stems that might have produced flowers next spring. 


The right tree fertilizer is essential for the health and beauty of your trees. It can boost growth, improve resistance to disease and insect damage, and extend your trees’ life span. The best time to fertilize is in spring, just after the first killing frost. This is when the weather is reasonable, trees have active root growth, and soil moisture is adequate. Generally, you should apply a well-balanced or complete tree fertilizer that contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These nutrients are important for green foliage, flowering and fruiting, and for the development of root systems. Fertilizing in spring is also a great way to promote the growth of young trees, which usually grow faster and more successfully this time of year than during other seasons. However, established trees do not need to be fertilized as often. Instead, your goal is to keep them healthy and vibrant with slow-release fertilizer that releases its nutrients over several months. 


Mulching is one of the most effective ways to promote the health of your trees. It is used for a variety of reasons, including to save water, smother weeds, and improve soil quality. Trees thrive in a naturally enriched environment where leaves, twigs, and branches blanket the soil surface. Mulches mimic this natural environment and replenish nutrients as they decompose, creating a rich, well-aerated base that is perfect for root growth. In urban landscapes, however, soils are often much harsher and lacking in organic matter. Applying a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch can mimic aspects of a forest’s environment and improve soil structure and fertility, especially in new construction sites. When applied correctly, mulch can smother weeds, retain moisture, and make good compost when it decomposes. It also helps protect your soil from compaction, erosion, and winter snow removal.