I know you’re probably excited to get your transplants in the ground, but I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Before we do anything else, we need to get outside and do some pruning before spring kicks into high gear!
What types of plants should you prune?
For the most part, pruning is for perennial plants, shrubs, and trees since annuals typically don’t make it through the winter.
Plants Need Pruning If They Are:
- Overgrown or unruly
- Patchy (insufficient light to center or lower parts of the plant)
- Touching a structure
- Crowding out other plants
- Unproductive or you want to increase productivity (more blooms/fruits)
Late winter/early spring is when plants are dormant and not actively growing. I like to aim for Valentine’s Day (this year, I was a little behind). The plant has time to recover from the wounds of pruning during dormancy, plus pruning actually stimulates new growth which is perfect for this time of year – it kick-starts spring growth.
Exceptions to Pruning in Early Spring
There is one notable exception to early spring pruning, and that’s pruning flowering shrubs.
As a general rule, you should prune AFTER a plant flowers. It’s safe to prune any plant during early spring (dormancy) – your plant will still survive, BUT if you prune something that flowers before June (a sign that your plant flowers on the previous year’s growth), you’ll miss any blooms/fruits for that season/year. If something flowers after June, it usually means it flowers on new/this year’s growth, so it’s best to prune now.
NEVER PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER/FALL! It encourages new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage and can kill your plant.
What Tools Do You Need?
All you need is something to cut with. I find the following three items to be all that’s necessary. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you choose to buy anything, I’ll get a small commission. These are what I use to do my own pruning):
- Hand Pruners (for twigs with diameter of about a finger or less). Be sure they’re bypass pruners, NOT anvil pruners.
- Loppers (for anything from the diameter of your finger to diameter of your wrist). Again, be sure they’re bypass loppers and not anvil-style (which crushes instead of giving a clean cut)
- Hand Saw (for anything bigger than that – typically trees or very big/old limbs on a shrub)
A Note About Safety
Don’t be overly daring when it comes to pruning. Especially with trees, if a limb is too big or too high to reach, leave it alone. If it bothers you that much, have a friend help you or hire a certified arborist (yes, make sure it’s not just a tree service!). If you’re using a ladder, have someone there to spot you/help hold it, or you’ll need to have 9-1-1 on speed-dial.
Now that we have the basis of why, when, and what to prune, come back next Wednesday for the nitty gritty on how to prune – the science behind pruning, deciding where to cut, and how to cut the right way.
Have you started (or completed) your pruning for this year? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!
Sunday: Spring Forth
Next Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune