YOUR PRUNING GUIDE
“The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”
- Joseph Campbell
Pruning is an essential component to maintaining a healthy garden. By helping our plants shed their unwanted or unhealthy growths, we open them up to a world of newer and healthier possibilities. Good pruning practices will help to encourage your plants to grow with more enthusiasm and open up new space for new growth, while getting rid of the dead weight that might be holding them back. If not done correctly and at the right time, though, pruning can be ineffective or even damaging to our plants. Keep your garden growing healthy and strong by knowing its pruning needs for every season.
In the right season, pruning is as simple as removing anything that is dead or dying. Pruning helps with the aesthetic look of your trees and shrubs, but its first priority is promoting plant health by stripping away old or useless growth. Use sharp shears when you are pruning for less damaging cuts. Snip off spent buds and blooms. Trim any branches or foliage that is yellow or brown. Remove stubby or leggy growths. Try to cut in one, smooth motion at a 45° angle to promote quick healing. Clean up any trimmings or fallen dead growths from under plants to prevent rot or infection.
PRUNING IN LATE WINTER
Between February and April is the perfect time to prune trees and shrubs that bloom on new growth. The most common varieties to prune in late winter include deciduous and fruit trees. To bloom their best, these plants will need to grow just before their blooming season. New growths appear when old ones are removed, so a nice pruning will give new buds, blooms, and fruits new real estate to grow on.
The warming up from the cold weather hits deciduous and fruit trees like a bear coming out of hibernation. Their sap starts flowing and pushing them to grow. If pruned after their sap is running, the cuts won’t be able to dry out and will heal much slower. If not sealed up quickly, these openings invite pests and disease. Pruning early, before the sap starts to flow, to ensure a faster healing period is of the utmost importance.
PRUNING IN SPRING AND SUMMER
Shrubs with forgettable blooms that are primarily grown for their foliage are best pruned in spring. Shrubs like dogwood, honeysuckle, and sumac will grow their best if they are pruned right before the season. You might sacrifice some blooms, but it’s worth it to prepare them for a full season of growth with a nice trim early on.
To get your stunning spring and summer bloomers ready for the season, you’ll want to prune them in-season. These plants tend to set their buds on old wood, meaning that they already grew their new buds after they finished blooming last year. Always planning ahead, these plants will already have their buds set to go when the season hits. To help these forward-thinkers get ready for next year, they need to be pruned right after they finish blooming. Prune these flowering varieties, including lilacs and viburnums, by trimming off this year’s growths when they are spent. Eager to get started for next year, the plants will set straight to work, growing and budding for next season on the newly pruned branches.
Perennials will also benefit from some pruning after they have bloomed. Some varieties will need deadheading to encourage growth next season and others may need trimming right to the soil. Whatever pruning your perennial may need, work on it at the end of their bloom.
When the leaves are falling and the trees are bare, it may seem like a great time to grab the shears and get to work. While it may seem smart, pruning in the fall can actually be pretty damaging to most plants. Pruning encourages new growth, which takes time to get established and become hardy. If pruned right before the temperature drops, the tree or shrub won’t have time to grow effectively, leaving them smaller and less healthy. Any late pruning you may have should be done before September and then it’s best to put the clippers to rest.
One plant that can be an exception to this rule for is an oak. Oaks with fresh cuts in the spring and summer attract beetles that carry a detrimental fungal disease known as oak wilt. These beetles are less active in the later seasons, so cuts are better made then. Your tree may still struggle with its new growth over the cold winter season, but it is a worthwhile risk for this tree, considering the damage that an infection can cause.
Pruning will help your plants grow longer while keeping them healthier and stronger. It can be difficult to pick up the shears or scissors to start making cuts to our beloved trees and shrubs, but making some well-planned cuts will help them to grow back stronger, healthier, and better-looking. For more tips and tricks for pruning in your yard, visit us at the Garden Center today!