Can I Prune Now?
As the year moves into late winter, a common question arises, "Can
I prune now?" The answer to that question is that it depends
on what you want to prune. Some woody plants can be successfully
pruned now, others should be pruned at another time.
Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) can be
pruned now, while they are dormant. This is actually a good time,
since it is easy to see the framework of the tree. Seeing the framework
makes it easier to decide what needs to be removed.
Pruning trees that have been in the landscape for a while consists
mostly of maintenance pruning. Remove branches that have been damaged
by fall and winter storms, any branches that are crossing one another
and branches that appear to have been attacked by disease and insects
during the growing season. After that has been done, remove branches
that will help improve the shape and form of the tree. Do not cut
just to be cutting; always prune with a purpose.
Pruning shrubs at this time of year takes a little thought. Shrubs
that will bloom in the spring, should NOT be pruned now. They formed
their flower buds last summer. If they are pruned now, spring flowering
will be greatly reduced. Spring flowering shrubs should not be pruned
until after they are finished flowering. Shrubs that bloom mid to
late summer can be pruned now, since they will not form their buds
until spring time.
If you have shrubs that can be pruned now, dont just give
them a hair cut. Too often, shrub pruning consists of lopping off
the top few inches of the shrub. Take time and do it right; prune
selectively. There are two main types of cuts to make. Thinning
cuts are made to remove a branch at the point where it emerges from
the ground. Cutting out older branches to the ground will not only
stimulate new growth, it will start to lower the height of the shrub.
Doing this type of pruning on a yearly basis helps keep shrubs from
becoming overly tall, while maintaining a natural shape. This type
of pruning is perfect for multi-stemmed shrubs like old-fashioned
lilac and red twig dogwood.
The other type of cut is known as heading back. With this cut,
only a portion of a branch is removed back to a side branch or bud.
Making a number of heading back cuts at different heights helps
to open the shrub to sunlight and air circulation, which can reduce
disease problems and enhance future flowering. As you look to prune
shrubs, remember that good pruning is often a combination of both
thinning cuts and heading back cuts.
Pruning cuts do not need to be painted or sealed. Just be sure
to make good, clean cuts with sharp tools. Do not leave stubs as
these will not produce new growth and may be entryways for disease
and insects during the growing season. Your cut should be made near
the bud, since this is the area from which new growth will emerge.
Use sharp tools and be sure they are clean.
February - March 2002: Starting
From Seed | Can I Prune Now? | Lady Beetles
"Housing" in Illinois| New Septic
System Publications | Weird Weather