Winter Pruning

Pruning is practiced to maintain plant health, control plant growth, and encourage flowering and fruiting. Late winter, before the onset of new growth, is an ideal time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. During this time of year deciduous trees and shrubs are dormant. Pruning trees and shrubs in the winter, while the plants are dormant, allow you see more clearly, the plant’s overall branching structure. This makes it easier to determine which limbs require pruning.

As with all pruning projects, it is important to prune properly and to use the correct tools. Hand pruning shears are perfect for the smallest branches and loppers for branches measuring up to one half inch. A pruning saw should be used for larger. All tools should be kept sharp. Sharp tools not only cut easier but will not bruise the plant tissue. When pruning, clean cut should be made. This means the cut surface is smooth not torn or pulled. Avoid injuring the plant around the cut and avoid tearing the bark above or below the cut. Do not twist or turn the shears as you cut because you will injure the plant as well as your shears.

What to Prune

When pruning in late winter look for branches that snap off easily or that have been broken off by wind or heavy snow and make a sharp clean cut.

Branches which criss-cross or grow inward towards the center of the plant should also be pruned. Removing branches which are growing in the center of multi-laddered trees and shrubs should be removed to allow air to flow through the plant.

Branches should be well spaced around the trunk. Acutely angled limbs are weaker than more horizontally growing branches and should be pruned. Parallel branches growing in the same plane, one above the other, should also be eliminated by removing one of them.

Branches that hang over a walkway or doorway should be pruned. trees and shrubs have an overall structure that can be marred by the occasional wayward branch. Just as some branches grow into the shrub’s structure, some also grow too far out and spoil the overall shape of the shrub.

Remember, pruning can draw attention to colorful and textural bark of some trees.

Limit your pruning to the to removal of no more than a third of the total bud and leaf-bud-bearing branches. Late winter pruning should be completed before new growth emerges. However, avoid pruning on very cold days.

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