Can I Prune Now?
As spring arrives, a common question arises, “Can I prune now?”
The answer to that question is that it depends on what you want
to prune. Some woody plants can be successfully pruned now, others
should pruned at another time.
Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) can be
pruned while they are dormant. This is actually a good time, since
it is easy to see the framework of the tree. Seeing the framework,
makes it easier to decide what needs to be removed.
Pruning trees that have been in the landscape for a while, consists
mostly of maintenance pruning. Remove branches that have been damaged
by fall and winter storms, any branches that are crossing one another
and branches that appear to have been attacked by disease and insects
during the growing season. After that has been done, remove branches
that will help improve the shape and form of the tree. Do not cut
just to be cutting; always prune with a purpose.
Pruning shrubs takes a little thought. Shrubs that will bloom
in the spring, should NOT be pruned yet. They formed their flower
buds last summer. If they are pruned now, spring flowering will
be greatly reduced. Spring flowering shrubs should not be pruned
until after they are finished flowering. When you do prune your
shrubs, don’t just give them a hair cut. Too often, shrub pruning
consists of lopping off the top few inches of the shrub. Take time
and do it right; prune selectively. There are two main types of
cuts to make. Thinning cuts are made to remove a branch at the point
where it emerges from the ground. Cutting out older branches to
the ground will not only stimulate new growth, it will start to
lower the height of the shrub. Doing this type of pruning on a yearly
basis helps keep shrubs from becoming overly tall, while maintaining
a natural shape. This type of pruning is perfect for multi-stemmed
shrubs like old-fashioned lilac and red twig dogwood.
The other type of cut is known as heading back. With this cut,
only a portion of a branch is removed back to a side branch or bud.
Making a number of heading back cuts at different heights helps
to open the shrub to sunlight and air circulation, which can reduce
disease problems and enhance future flowering. As you look to prune
shrubs, remember that good pruning is often a combination of both
thinning cuts and heading back cuts.
Pruning cuts do not need to painted or sealed. Just be sure to
make good, clean cuts with sharp tools. Do not leave stubs as these
will not produce new growth and may be entryways for disease and
insects during the growing season. Your cut should be made near
the bud, since this is the area from which new growth will emerge.
Use sharp tools and be sure they are clean.
April - May 2004: Foolproof Perennials
| Plants, Septic and Failures | Can I Prune
Now? | Selecting Trees