TO PRUNE OR NOT TO PRUNE? – THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION!
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on this very subject. I think it is only fitting that I write on this topic once again. It seems that every day I get customers asking about pruning. For some reason, people see their plants, especially the deciduous plants, in a different view this time of year. Or, having to spend so much time cooped up in the house because of this pandemic that they yearn to get outside and work on their landscape for something to do. Whichever the case, it’s all about time and proper pruning techniques to keep your plants vigorous and healthy for the upcoming growing season.
Here we are in late January and so far our weather hasn’t been too bad with our temperatures staying close to normal for the month. We have had enough cold days so far this winter that all of our outdoor plants are now in a dormant state which is a very important factor to know before considering doing any pruning. And, we continue to have weekly rainfall with very little, if any, freezing rain or snowfall. And, this is good for our plants.
Before you start to prune be sure to have a clear purpose in mind for wanting to prune a particular plant. The three most obvious reasons to want to prune a shrub or tree are:
- Controlling the size of the plant
- Maintaining the plants’ shape
- Improving the plants’ appearance
To help answer the pruning questions correctly, I always keep the Virginia Tech ‘A Guide to Successful Pruning, Shrub Pruning Calendar’ handy. And, I keep plenty of copies available for handouts to customers.
HERE ARE A FEW DO’S AND DON’TS WHEN IT COMES TO PROPER PRUNING
- Hold off on pruning any evergreen plants, such as boxwoods or hollies. Evergreen plants need their foliage to stay healthy through the winter. The best time to prune evergreens is around the first of March.
- Now is a good time to do some thinning of some deciduous shrubs and trees. Thinning is the complete removal of some branches back to the main trunk or to the main branch. The deciduous hollies, butterfly bushes, roses, and the summer blooming hydrangeas, like Limelight or Annabelle, can be pruned back at this time.
- Do not prune spring-blooming plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias. The time to prune spring-blooming plants is just after they finish blooming.
Here is a shortlist of favorite plants that can be pruned this time of year:
- Burning Bush
- Butterfly bush
- Knock Out roses
- Rose of Sharon
Here is a shortlist of favorite plants NOT to prune now but to wait until after the plant finishes flowering:
- Spring-blooming Hydrangea
Bottom line … for some plants pruning is not necessary. Matter of fact, there is a growing gardening trend to let plants grow naturally with unaltered growth. Now, this trend can only work if you plant the right plant in the right location taking into account the ultimate growing dimensions.