Pruning is a vital part of caring for your landscape plants. But when do you prune … everything?
Certain plants need certain types of pruning at specific times of the year in order to grow, bloom, fruit and look their very best. Determining when these different types of pruning and when to do it, can seem daunting, but here is a great list to break it all down for you, taking the guesswork out of your annual landscaping chores!
When everything is completely dormant for the winter, now is the best time to prune many trees and woody shrubs. When leafless, it’s easier to see the branching structure!
Before or just as you see new growth emerging for the year. Shrubs that bloom in summer and fall form next year's flowers on that current year’s growth, so they can be pruned early spring without disturbing those blooms.
Because sap flows in certain trees in the spring, it’s important to know that pruning too early will create a sticky mess. Waiting until these trees flower in spring, or just when the new leaves show, is a good idea.
Any shrub that blooms on new growth can be pruned in early spring before they start to grow to shape, reduce the size, and eliminate the old and thick, less vigorous wood.
It is very important to know which of your plants bloom on new wood. Should they get pruned at the wrong time, you may not ever see flowers. Generally, these plants form their flower buds on last year’s growth and they will bloom in spring, so pruning them in fall or early spring will cut off the flowers that formed. The best time to prune these plants is as soon as they finish blooming. Prune to reduce the size or change the shape, and remove the oldest thickest stems too.
To prevent removing next year's blooms that become next year's fruit, pruning after harvest or fruiting is done ensures you won’t diminish fruit set each year.
Flowering bulbs form roots in the fall before going dormant, so the green foliage is very important for making food and storing energy for the next year’s blooms. So leaving the green leaves intact until they turn yellow, then you can trim the old leaves to the soil making room for other plants in your borders.
Nights start getting cooler and some plants have already started shutting down for the year. Now is also the time to remove the leaves and stems that were diseased or dead to prevent overwintering in the old leaf litter.
Deciduous plants are shutting down at this time and it’s time to prune if the leaves have fallen off. Rake up these leaves and compost them or dispose of them to prevent disease or overwintering insect eggs from transferring to the new year.
Wisteria has a specific method of pruning that we suggest with a 2 step pruning cycle:
Allow the first round of blooms to flower on the old canes from the previous year. Climbing Roses differ in that you will have to maintain some older canes until new shoots come from the ground. Then selectively remove the oldest, fattest stems to the ground after the first round of flowers.
After their first flush of new growth for an informal look, make individual cuts on branch tips, or some like to shear them for a formal look. This is best done in early spring to remove any winter-damaged tips and again to reduce the amount of new growth in the first flush.
Pruning fruit trees is a whole science and changes by region because of climate or insects or disease.
It makes a big difference too if you have a newly planted young tree, or maybe you are renovating an older neglected fruit tree or orchard. Most suggest pruning Apples, Apricots, Peaches, Pears, Cherries or Plums during the winter when you can see crossing branches or broken or diseased branches that can be cut out. Young plants may not have those issues yet, and that may be more appropriate for older plants.
It is important to prune fruit trees right from the beginning so you can alter the form, opening up the center for air circulation and sunlight, and to select branches to best hold the weight of fruit without tearing the tree. Winter pruning is suggested to prevent the spread of disease or insects, and because you can see the branching of the plant.
While many others suggest pruning fruit trees during the growing season to easily correct the form because those pruning cuts heal almost immediately with less chance of disease issues. So before pruning your fruit trees, it is a great idea to do a little homework to get the timing right for your area of the country.
Most pruning should be completed by mid-summer so any new growth that forms afterward will have time to ‘harden off’ before winter frost.
Snipping off or literally pinching off the tips of growth before your plant flowers to encourage side branching and fullness. Done in Spring or as the new growth begins to expand.
Removing the largest, thickest stems to make room for younger more vigorous stems, while also stimulating new growth.
Heading back a tree or shrub means shortening up some of the lengths of the longer stems by pruning them back to control the size and shape of your plant.
A light surface pruning to create a smooth and formal appearance to evergreens and hedges. Topiary and hedges are often sheared after they’ve completed their first spring flush of growth, and some hedges can be sheared again in mid-summer.
Renewal pruning rejuvenates older, neglected shrubs by cutting out the oldest, thickest stems to the ground leaving the thinner younger stems in place to flower and fruit. This can also apply to removing the top third of a shrub to encourage a flush of new growth.
Cutting back perennials and some grasses is a yearly task done to remove all of the old top growth from the previous growing season. This is best done either in fall for perennials that may have had diseased leaves or the old growth, or in early spring before there is new growth. Ornamental Grasses are best left up for winter to enjoy, and so the cut hollow stems don’t collect water which can cause problems.
Spirals, boxes, circles or cones, even pom-poms - Create unusually shaped shrubs or small trees with specialized cuts and training, combined with shearing to create a unique garden Topiary sculpture!
Space-saving flat pruning technique that trains a tree or vine into a unique specimen that can act as a focal point or living wall/screen in the garden without taking up space. Read more here in our Garden Blog!
Pruning is a very important part of garden maintenance! Nature Hills is happy to take the guesswork out of when and how to prune! Save time and prevent mistakes by allowing NatureHills.com to help you keep your garden growing beautifully every year!