Pruning your trees and shrubs is a very important part of any maintenance program for your landscape. By pruning on a regular basis you can avoid excessive pruning on overgrown plants.

There are five important reasons to prune trees and shrubs. First, pruning increases light and air circulation within the canopy. Secondly, pruning also can be used to increase the amount of fruit or flowers on a plant. Thirdly, removing unsightly suckers or water-sprouts is another reason to prune. Returning a plant to its natural growth habit is needed in some cases, certain plants need to be pruned when overgrown. One example of this is the lilac. Finally, pruning can also be used to maintain the size and shape of a plant within the landscape.

When to Prune

Some plants can only be pruned at specific times of the year. Most plants can be placed into categories based on their characteristics. Plants that flower in the spring should be pruned after flowering and before setting buds for the next season. Because they flower early in the spring, buds will develop on the previous year's growth. Pruning before flowering will not generally injure the plant but will usually see a reduction in the amount of flowering. Plants that flower in the summer should be pruned during the months in which the plant is dormant, before new growth appears. Because the buds occur on current season's growth, pruning after growth begins could decrease floral development. Cedars, junipers, spruce and pine may be pruned at any time of the year. Shorten shoot length (candling) during growth in early summer for best results. Deciduous trees can be pruned at almost any time. Avoid spring pruning as bleeding may occur. Generally this will not harm the tree but can be unsightly.

Pruning Tips

When pruning a tree or shrub, never leave a stub after making the cut. Cut back to a bud or just outside the branch collar. Never remove more than 1/3 of the canopy when pruning. Never make cuts flush; these cuts remove the closing-off mechanism of the plant and will have a hard time healing. Also, ensure your tools are of the proper size and are sharp.

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