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Pruning Trees and Shrubs during Winters

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The best time to prune the shrubs and trees in your garden is early spring or late winter. However, not all of the trees and shrubs should be pruned. Here are some tips to prune your trees during the optimal season of winter and spring.

Why is it advised to prune during Winter or Early Spring?

In most of the regions, plants would often reach the stage of dormancy during winters. At this point, their growth sees a halt, and they have hunkered down because of the cold weather. This dormancy is what makes late winter and early spring the ideal time to train the shape of your trees and shrubs. You must prune your trees hard by the close of winters or before early spring arrives as this is the time when new growth takes place. Doing so allows the plant to invest all of its potential into a new healthy growth under the warm temperatures of spring.

Technically, its only winter when deciduous trees they lose their foliage and you can see their true shape and structure.

With this, must also note that this doesn’t apply to all kinds of trees and shrubs. In fact, only those trees and shrubs should be pruned during these seasons that expect new growth during these seasons. However, those trees and shrubs that would bloom on old growth should only be pruned at the close of spring or summer when their flowers begin to fade.

General Pruning Tips for Cold Weather

  • Prune on mildly cold, dry days. This would not only result in an easy pruning exercise for you but will also prevent cold-temperature damages and the spreading of waterborne plant diseases.
  • Don’t hasten to prune as soon as winter knocks in. This is because incisions in trees can cause drying out as winter progresses, particularly if the temperature falls below the freezing level.
  • Prioritize pruning the dead and diseased branches so that the tree can be brought towards healthy growth.
  • A shaggy cover of unwanted branches at the bottom of shrubs and trees should also be pruned first.
  • Overly shaggy branches surrounding the crown of trees should also be pruned to optimize the receipt of light and air by trees. The goal is to maintain the structure of the tree whilst improving its health.
  • Cut branches from the connecting point, the node.

 

When is the right time to Prune Flowering Shrubs?

If you have got flowering shrubs in your yard, the right time to prune them depends on their blooming season and that whether it blooms on new or old growth.

  • Shrubs that bloom on new wood: Shrubs that prune on new wood i.e. their growth occurs in spring such as Beautyberry, Abelia, Butterfly Bush, Smooth Hydrangeas, Potentilla, Roses, Dogwoods, Japanese Spirea, etc. These shrubs should only be pruned by the end of winter or during early spring when they are set to have new growth.
  • Shrubs that bloom on old wood: These are the shrubs that continue their growth from the previous year. For example, Azalea, Cotoneaster, Enkianthus, Lilacs, Mophead Hydrangeas, Flowering almond, Forsythia, and Pieris, etc. Cutting such shrubs too early in the winter can cause cutting off the buds that would’ve unfurled during spring. The optimal time to prune them, therefore, is after the spring flowers have faded.

When is the right time to Prune Evergreens and Trees?

  • Evergreen shrubs like Yew, Boxwoods, and Holly and Evergreen Trees like Spruce and Fir must be pruned during late winters or early spring. That is when they are dormant, and new growth hasn’t begun. Pines, particularly, should be pruned from early June to July.
  • Shade trees such as Maple, Katsura, Sweet Gum, Oak, and Hornbeam are well-suited to pruning during early Spring or winter only.
  • Spring-flowering trees are ought to be pruned after they have flowered. Examples of such trees include Dogwood, Redbud, Pear, Magnolia, and cherry trees.

It can often get hard to determine if a tree bears dead branches on the top unless one climbs it. For reasons like that, it is necessary to have a tree trimmer on board to prune and cut off any dead branches at least once every three years.

For shorter trees, tree pruners with long reach poles are optimal as they help you keep your feet to the ground.

Which trees and shrubs should be pruned in late winters or Early Spring?

Tree/Shrub When How
Apple Close of Winters till Early Spring Do not over prune, nor do place sharp V-shaped incisions. Shape the branches to the desired shape whilst keeping the tree open.
Abelia Close of Winters till Early Spring Cutaway the old stems close to the ground level and maintain a graceful arch. Pinch the shoots for a healthier bloom during spring.
Azalea During the relevant growing season or Late Winters Before the growth season is finally in, tune the shape of this bush by trimming the irregular branches. Pinch the shoots for a healthier bloom during spring.
Butterfly Bush Late winter Remove all the stems at the bottom.
Chaste tree Late winter to early spring Only prune a little to remove any weak, dead, broken, or irregularly shaped, diseased branches.
Cherry Close of Winters till Early Spring Only prune the irregular shoots.
Clethra (Summersweet) Early spring Do not over prune, nor do place sharp V-shaped incisions. Shape the branches to the desired shape whilst keeping the tree open.
Crape myrtle Late winter If not cold-hardy, cut off the winter-dead branches or cut it down to the ground wholly. If cold-hardy, only prune a little.
Dogwood Close of Winters till Early Spring Only prune the irregular shoots.
Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon) Early spring Do not over prune, nor do place sharp V-shaped incisions. Shape the branches to the desired shape whilst keeping the tree open.
Hydrangea Ideally late winter – can vary with species. For oakleaf or bigleaf hydrangea species, only cut the stems with old flowers that are still attached to fat flower buds. For smooth hydrangea, cut all the flower stems.
Peach Close of Winters till Early Spring Remove almost half of the last year’s grown branches.
Plum Close of Winters till Early Spring Only cut away the dead or diseased branches.
Roses Early spring Cut the weak or dead branches to five buds.
Smokebush Close of Winters or beginning of spring before the bloom formally begins. If grown for its purple foliage, it needs little pruning.

If grown for its flowers, it needs severe pruning to prompt healthy growth the next season.

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