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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Prune Trees and Shrubs, Though Not Spring Bloomers

Home Depot
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Difficulty: Intermediate
Duration: Varies


Pruning trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubs can be invigorated by pruning during winter. A sensible trim helps plants produce more flowers and ward off pests and diseases.

It’s critical to prune at the right time to help your trees and shrubs look their best.

Not all trees should be pruned now, though. Rhododendrons, azaleas and other spring-flowering shrubs, as well as maple, birch, dogwood, walnut and elm trees should be pruned in summer or fall. If you’re uncertain, check with your Garden Center associate.

Caring for your trees and shrubs now supports new growth in the spring.

How to Prune Trees:

  1. On young trees, protect the leader, or main trunk, from competition. Remove any second leaders that are crooked, defective or lopsided.
  2. When branches rub or cross each other, remove one.
  3. Remove suckers or side shoots from the base of the tree using a knife or scissors.
  4. Prune lower limbs to expose more trunk.
  5. Lightly prune upper limbs to enhance the natural shape. Hire a certified arborist if the job is too big.
  6. Never top or drastically cut back trunks with a chainsaw because it ruins form and causes problems. There is one exception to this rule, the chaste tree. It can be trained as either a multi-trunk tree or cut back hard each year so it is more shrub-like in form.
  7. Continually prune and remove dead, diseased or damaged wood.

How to Prune Shrubs:

  1. Cut dead, diseased and damaged wood using sharp loppers or hand pruners.
  2. Prune branches that grow inward to allow the shrub to get more sun and air.
  3. If your shrub is too big, cut it by about 1/3. If your shrub is a tangled mess and can’t be saved, cut it to 4” to 6” above the ground. New growth will be more compact, but save this heavy pruning for every 3 to 5 years.
  4. If you’re pruning frequently to keep size in check, you have chosen the wrong plant for the spot and may want to transplant.

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