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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Pruning Trees and Shrubs in Winter

P. Allen Smith
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P Allen Smith, pruning

Winter is the time to tackle many pruning jobs.

It may seem misguided to get out your pruning tools in winter, but this is the ideal season for cutting back many deciduous trees and shrubs. There are several reasons to tackle this job at this time.  Winter pruning prepares trees and shrubs for abundant growth when they come out of dormancy in spring. The wounds are exposed for a limited amount of time before the growing cycle begins. Pests and diseases are less prevalent. And finally, it’s easier to see what needs to be pruned when the branches are bare.

The best time to schedule your pruning jobs is late winter when you are sure the garden is dormant and spring is about a month to six weeks away.


PAS pruning trees•    Hardwood Trees – Pruning hardwoods after the leaves drop allows you to see the branches and make cuts that will maintain the tree’s natural shape. It also gives the tree a full growing season to heal. Cut the branches off right above the branch collar. This is the area at the juncture of the limb and the tree. You can identify it by the whorls of wrinkled bark. Cutting just above this area rather than flat against the tree will ensure quicker healing. This area of the tree contains special anti-microbial chemicals and phenols, which help inhibit decay. If the cut is made here it’s not necessary to use pruning paint, nature will take care of it.

•    Summer Flowering Trees and Shrubs – The rule of thumb for pruning flowering shrubs is if it flowers after May the 15th, prune it in late winter or early spring for lots of bloom in summer. Flowering trees follow the same rule as flowering shrubs.

•    Roses – Hybrid tea, old-fashioned and climbing roses should be pruned right before the leaf buds break in very early spring. If you live in a cold climate, pruning should be done when you remove winter protection and the danger of frost has passed. An exception to this time frame is the old-fashioned roses that flower once each growing season, such as Damasks and Mosses. These varieties bloom on old wood and should be pruned in the summer after they have flowered.

P Allen Smith, pruning shrubs•    Fruit trees – Fruit trees flower on growth from the previous season, but pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, so there will be some flower and fruit loss. The good news is that pruning promotes vigorous growth and larger, better tasting fruits. Each type of fruit tree has some special requirements so do some research before you begin cutting.

 Images courtesy of P. Allen Smith

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