General Pruning Guide
When to Prune
Generally the best time to prune is during the plant's dormant period. However, you can remove the 3D’s at any time: Dead, Diseased or Damaged.
Some general pruning times are as follows:
- Summer blooming bushes & Shrubs such as Potentilla, Spirea, Weigelia, Beautybush, Deutzia & Mockorange can be pruned: Early Spring/Late Fall
- Spring Blooming bushes & shrubs such as Crabapple, Forsynthia & Lilac can be pruned: Immediately after Blooming
- Shade Trees such as Maples, Birch, Walnut & Poplar can be pruned: Fall
- Fruit Trees such as Apple, Pear, & Plum can be pruned: Late Winter/Early Spring (After dormant – Before bloom)
- Water Sprouts and dead or diseased branched can be pruned back: Anytime. The sooner the better
- Evergreen Trees & Roses can be pruned: Late Winter/Early Spring (Just before growth starts)
Choosing the Right Tools
Picking the right tool for the job will mean less work and ensure that your plants will heal more quickly. Hand pruners work well for small jobs, loppers for large, hedge shears on hedges, bushes and shrubs, and tree pruners for those hard-to-reach tree limbs. Pruners are available in both Anvil and By-Pass versions.
Always check the cutting capacities of your pruning tools and don't use them on stems which are too thick. Good tools are worth preserving. Keeping your tools clean and sharp will extend their life, and they will make cleaner cuts as well. Simply dry your tools after each use and apply a few drops of oil to the blades and joints. Pruning tools that are gummed up with stubborn sap and dirt can be cleaned with an emery cloth or a fine sandpaper.
Tree Pruners – Use on hard-to-reach branches
Loppers – Extended reach and leverage. For larger branches up to 2” diameter.
Hedge Shears – All hedges except larger woody branches.
Hand Pruners – Use on stems up to ¾” diameter.
What should you prune off?
- Any dead or diseased twigs or branches should be cut off as soon as they are noticed.
- If you wish to do further tidying up, cut out thin weak twigs which can be seen not to have borne flowers or fruit. These occur mainly in shaded parts of the plant, at the base and in the center. Their removal will encourage growth in the rest of the plant.
- Any crossing branches which will rub against and damage one another should be pruned off to leave a good, strong framework for the structure of the plant. This is particularly important with trees and especially apples.
Making the Proper Cut.
Pruning new growth is easy. Position the cut just above a bud as new growth comes from the buds. Be careful not to make the cut too close or far away from a bud.
Never cut evergreens so far back that no green shoots are showing. In evergreens brown twigs cannot produce new green shoots and all you will be left with is a tangle of dead brown twigs at the base of the hedge or tree. A rule of thumb is to never take off more than a third of the green material.
Prune shrubs first to remove dead or damaged branches. Next prune to improve the shrub's shape.
- Cut out oversized branches that droop.
- Trim older stems to the ground to allow room for new branches.
- To completely renovate a shrub, cut back to within 6" of the ground.
Roses may be pruned lightly or severely depending on your preference, but an unpruned rose will soon become overgrown and produce few blossoms. Prune roses during the plants dormant period to remove deadwood, to shape it ,and control it. Remove old stems to open the plant framework. This allows sunlight in and promotes new growth. Prune just above leaflets because new growth begins here. Use by-pass pruners. They cause less damage to tender shoots.
Some simple guidelines to make your trees a healthier and a more attractive part of your yard for years to come.
- Dominant leader (do not prune). This is the tallest branch of the tree.
- Prune competing secondary leaders.
- Prune inward growing branches or branches that rub.
- Cut off deep crotched limbs that have weak connections.
- Trim water sprouts.
- Prune broken, storm damaged limbs.
- Remove suckers
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