Hi from the team at Zone 7 Landscape Center!
February and March can be a busy time in the garden as you’re getting ready for the onset of spring. One of the important chores to get done before new growth begins to emerge and warmer weather arrives, is pruning. Pruning can be intimidating for many gardeners, both beginner and seasoned alike, but education is the key to success when pruning your shrubs and trees to ensure aesthetics and long-term overall plant health.
First, it is important that your pruners are clean and sharp. There are many hardware and home and garden stores that may provide this service for you. It is always a good idea to clean and oil your pruning tools after use as well to prevent rust and build up. This will ensure a clean cut with no tearing, peeling, or additional damage to the plant.
Another important factor when it comes to pruning is that you know the proper time of year to prune all of your different shrubs and trees. Pruning at the wrong time of the year and/or excessive pruning are both common causes of bloom failure, damage, and/or disease. Although most trees and shrubs can safely be pruned during the dormant winter months, not all plants should be cut back in late winter. For example, azaleas should only be pruned after they have bloomed. Heavy pruning of these can prevent flower bud set and you’ll lose those beautiful blooms for the upcoming season.
One more important factor to remember is where you prune. All plants should be pruned selectively, cutting back individual stems at the node (nodes are the place where two branches or stems meet and you will often see one or more leaves and/or buds). When pruned properly, plants maintain their natural shape and can grow strong and healthy. Correct pruning will also encourage light and air to circulate through the plant, allowing it to develop thick, full foliage throughout the plant and not leave an “outer shell” of foliage with bare branches in the middle.
Here are a few extra tips:
- Remove any weak, crossing, rubbing, broken, or diseased branches.
- Prune your summer blooming trees and shrubs, like Crape myrtles. They bloom on new growth so you will want to remove some of the old wood and remember to remove last years’ seed heads to make room for this years’.
- Cut back any liriope and ornamental grasses.
Talk to your local horticulture expert for any other questions on pruning and remember: pruning doesn’t have to be scary if you know a few quick pointers on correct techniques. Happy gardening!