The winter months are a surprisingly busy time in the garden, with pruning being one of the chores that, if done in the winter months, will pay dividends for the gardener during the rest of the season. Pruning helps plants grow strong and healthy during their growing season. It allows plants to retain their natural shape while also allowing light and air to circulate through the plant to help it develop full foliage and not just small tufts of green at the end of branches.

Before you set out to begin pruning, we would like to share with you a couple of essential tips to make sure you have the most success possible.

First, preparing your tools for the job ahead is critical for your success. Clean your pruners of any dirt and grime from previous uses and make sure that the blades are sharp. Trying to prune with dull pruners is adding more labor and stress to your efforts. Also, it is an excellent practice to get into to oil your pruners after heavy uses. Oiling will prevent rust accumulating on the blades and will extend the life of your pruners.

Second, you must educate yourself on the essential characteristics of your trees and shrubs so that you know the proper time and process for pruning them. Pruning at the wrong time of year and excessive pruning are both common causes of your trees and shrubs failing to bloom the following year. Heavy pruning promotes vegetative growth and may prevent flower buds set. Also, some varieties of shrubs, like older hydrangeas, bloom on old wood and set their flower buds in the fall. Pruning them in the winter will ensure a lush, green, non-blooming hydrangea in the spring and summer. Pruning is the same for azaleas and rhododendrons, both plants which you should only prune after they bloom in the late spring/early summer.

Here are some other essential pruning tips for February through early March:

  1. Always remove any weakened, crossing, rubbing, broken, and diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Clearing weak limbs will allow healthy branches to grow unimpeded.
  2. Prune your crape myrtles now. Plants that flower in the summer typically bloom on new growth so now is the time to remove some of that old wood to clean up the plant along with any old seed heads from the previous year.
  3. Prune your fruit trees and bushes now. A moderate, annual pruning will encourage consistent fruit production during the growing season.
  4. Prune your roses now. Prune hybrid teas and shrub roses to around 12″ – 18″ around, making cuts on a slant about 1/4″ above a good bud. Pruning this way will ensure maximum growth potential and blooms.
  5. Cut back your liriope now. The winter turned those lush liriope plants a lovely shade of brown. Now is the time to trim that old-growth up to help encourage new growth for the spring.

Pruning can be an intimidating endeavor for many gardeners. Education and practice are the keys to applying successful pruning techniques to your trees and shrubs to ensure their long-term health. If you have questions, feel free to get advice from a professional horticulturist or talk ton one of the team members at your nearest Meadows Farms location. We have the information and equipment necessary to ensure your pruning is a success.