Around this time of year we are often called on to trim trees and shrubs in the landscape.  Is it really the best time?  The answer depends on what you are prunning and what your intentions are for that plant.  Here are a few tips on pruning that may help.

There are two basic types of pruning cuts you can make.

  1. Heading Back:  Heading Back induces branching and a more dense compact growth habit in plants.  Stems should be pruned back to a bud, which faces the direction you wish the plant to grow, generally outward.  Prune just above the bud.
  2. Thinning:  Thinning removes entire branches or stems back to there point of origin.  Thinning cuts open up the foliage and allow it to breath better and lead to a more natural looking landscape plant.  It is important that no stub is left when thinning.  Suckers should be pruned to keep nutrients flowing to other parts of the plant.  Suckers are unwanted sprouts that generally grow from the base of a plants trunk.

In general, flowering plants should be pruned just after the time of flowering so as to not interfere with flower bud development.  Pruning should also not take place in the fall since it may induce new growth that will not have time to harden off properly for winter.  Coniferous trees and shrubs should be pruned or pinched off during the “Candle Stage”.  This is the tender new growth in late spring or early summer, which is generally a different color.  About half of the candle should be removed.

If your shrubs have become too large and unruly for basic pruning practices you can sometimes rejuvenate them trimming them back to just above the ground.  This works better for some than others.  Usually, deciduous shrubs will have a better chance and recover faster than evergreens.  Burning bush or spirea are a great example of those that can be rejuvenated by making extreme cuts.  This can be done in the winter when plants are dormant or in late spring after leafing out.  Just be patient for there return to a normal shape.

Hopefully these guidelines will help your pruning adventures in the coming weeks.


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