FALL IS NOT THE SEASON TO BE DOING RANDOM PRUNING ON OUR SHRUBS AND TREES. YOU COULD BE DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD.
Fall is a favorite time for most of us to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and get out into our gardens. After a hot summer, we are all eager to get into our gardens to start the fall cleanup projects. We pull out the old and tired summer annuals that are on their last legs, we like to rake up the garden beds, pull weeds, and rejuvenate our lawns. While we are in this mood, it is awfully tempting to get out our pruners and want to cut back on our shrubs and trees—DON’T!!!
Fall is not the time of year to be doing any pruning. I keep A GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL PRUNING, SHRUB PRUNING CALENDAR on my desk for reference just to verify my information on pruning. With this knowledge, I can emphatically state that FALL IS A PRUNING-FREE SEASON!! I keep plenty of copies handy as handouts.
I have been getting questions on pruning daily now with fall approaching soon and homeowners wanting to get all their landscape beds rejuvenated for fall and winter. Here are a number of good, logical reasons why to be cautious with pruning this time of year:
- Pruning can alert a plant to put out new growth. You don’t want this happening in the fall. Shrubs and trees need to go dormant and not be pushing out tender new growth. This tender new growth will be damaged with the upcoming frost and colder temperatures. Keep in mind that our average first frost of the fall is around October 20 in our area. This frost could damage tender, new growth on plants.
- Plants in the fall are devoting their energy downward—they are gathering energy in their root system so they are able to push out new growth next spring. This means that plants are less likely to quickly repair the pruning cuts you make, which can lead to possible pest and disease problems down the road.
- We do not know what kind of winter we could have this year. Many times our winters here in Central Virginia can cause some dieback on many of our plants. It is much easier to prune next year once evidence of such damage becomes clear.
Bottom line: HOLD OFF ON PRUNING FOR NOW. According to A GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL PRUNING, November opens up the pruning season on some of our plants. Matter of fact, many of us will do some judicious pruning on our evergreens in order to use these branches for holiday decorating, such as with boxwoods, hollies, junipers, cypress, nandinas, and more.