Time to prune

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Time to prune

Believe it or not, spring really is on the way. After a long, cold winter, many homeowners begin to turn their attention to their landscape. The winter months can be damaging to trees and shrubs. To ensure healthy spring plants, homeowners may want to prune the trees and shrubs around their home. But you shouldn’t just prune for the sake of pruning; make sure you have a valid reason.

Pruning during the late winter months allows you to remove damage caused by winter winds and precipitation.

Pruning also is a way to remove diseased, crowded or hazardous branches. When pruning trees, the size of the tree should not be reduced too much in one season. Limit the pruning amount to one-fourth of the tree’s volume. Start by thinning out branches by cutting them off close to the tree’s trunk or a large limb.

Leave the base of the branch, known as the collar, intact. Cutting the collar will prevent the plant from growing over the wound caused from pruning. Pruning in this manner allows for a healthy tree that is more open to sunlight and air movement. If the branch is cut back only part way, there will likely be a crowded regrowth of new branches where the cut was made. Do not seal or paint the wounds resulting from pruning, because this will only delay the tree’s healing process.

Spring-flowering shrubs may need rejuvenation pruning, and the best time for that is right after they flower. If you prune a shrub before it blooms, you remove buds too soon and don’t get an opportunity enjoy those blooms. When you prune after blooming, you can still enjoy the flowers and the plant can recover, grow, and produce more buds for flowers next spring.

For rejuvenation pruning you remove one-third of the shrub’s oldest growth. You need to select the thickest, darkest and unhealthiest stems or branches and cut them back. You should cut back stems to soil level and branches to the point of intersection with the shrub’s main trunk. This ensures that only the youngest, most productive wood (that which produces the most and best flowers) remains a part of the shrub. During early spring you can also prune shrubs that will bloom during the summer months.

Pruning is not limited to a certain time of year. You can prune at any time if you notice damaged branches and limbs. The process is invigorating for the plants in a home landscape so you shouldn’t necessarily think of pruning just as a means of size control.

If you have a plant that has grown out-of-bounds, pruning may not be the answer – you may need to consider replacing the plant with one that will reach a smaller size at maturity.

Trees and shrubs to prune in late winter/early spring while still dormant:

  • Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana)

  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia Davidii)

  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

  • Flowering plum (Prunus blireana)

  • Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora)

  • Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissiam)

  • Hydrangea, Peegee (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’)

  • Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa)

  • Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

  • Spirea (except bridal wreath) (Spirea japonica))

  • Wisteria (Wistera species)

Trees and Shrubs to prune in late spring/summer, after bloom

  • Azalea (Rhododendron species)

  • Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)

  • Bridal wreath spirea (Spirea x vanhouttei)

  • Flowering crabapple (Malus species and cultivars)

  • Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia)

  • Hawthorn (Crataegus species and cultivars)

  • Hydrangea, Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla)

  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

  • Magnolia (Magnolia species and cultivars)

  • Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)

  • Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

  • Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)

  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)

  • Slender deutzia (deutzia gracilis)

  • Weigela (Weigela florida)

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offers publications that can answer many of your pruning and other gardening and landscape questions. Online, http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho45/ho45.pdf offers information about pruning trees and http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm offers information about pruning shrubs. For more information, contact the Bath County Cooperative Extension Service.

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