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Pruning 101: Trimming Advice For Plants, Trees and Shrubs

We often get a ton of questions about pruning and trimming plants, shrubs and trees so we hope this Pruning 101 tutorial will answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Why should I prune my plants, trees and shrubs?

Prune to remove dead, diseased and damaged wood. To remove suckers and make plants more vigorous.

When is the best time to prune spring flowering shrubs and trees?

Spring flowering shrubs like lilacs: prune right after blooming. If you wait longer to prune, the tree will have grown next year’s flower buds. They will be dormant but there. Pruning them off will prevent your tree from blooming the following spring.

When to prune rose bushes?

  • Varieties That Bloom Once: Summer Pruning
  • Fall Pruning: Preventative
  • Growth Control: Summer Pruning

If you notice some rose bushes getting too large or out of control, prune them. Roses can be cut back to the desired height any time during summer.

Before the first killing frost get your roses ready for winter. Prune damages and weak canes. Snow can can damage and brake tall canes. Large crossing branches should be removed to prevent their damage during winter storms, from rubbing against each other. However do not perform major pruning during this time.

When do I prune trees and shrubs?

Renewal Pruning

Gradually remove the oldest stems by cutting them back very close to the ground (for shrubs that produce many stems at the base), to the junction of a younger stem or where they meet the trunk (shrubs with a single trunk). For vigorous species, including Siberian pea trees, honeysuckles, mock oranges and common ninebarks, you can remove up to one-third of the old wood each year.

Rejuvenation Pruning

This type of pruning involves cutting all stems back to within 10 or 15 cm of the ground. It is suitable for shrubs that have been neglected for a number of years and older shrubs that are bare at the base.

Careful! Rejuvenation pruning is not suitable for all shrubs. Only those shrubs that readily produce new stems from the base can be cut back severely. The list includes dogwoods with colored stems smoke trees, wild hydrangeas, shrubby cinquefoils, mock oranges, common ninebarks, alpine currants, willows, Japanese spireas , some lilacs and elders .

When do I pruning evergreens?

Evergreens or conifers are usually pruned only to remove dead, diseased or damaged wood. You can also prune them to encourage bushier growth, while maintaining their natural shape. Unlike deciduous shrubs, conifers do not readily produce new shoots on old wood. This means that pruning should be limited to stems under two years of age.

Only yews and hemlocks tolerate more severe pruning. Whorl-branched conifers, Spruces, pines and firs should be pruned in late spring, before the needles on new shoots (candles) open. Use a hand pruner to cut the candles back by one- to two-thirds. The tips of branches pruned after the needles are fully formed will turn yellow. Random-branched conifers, Cedars, false cypresses, junipers, yews, larches, microbiotas and hemlocks should be pruned when the new shoots are almost fully grown, around late June. You can also prune them until early September, except during extremely hot or dry spells. Use a hand pruner to cut the new shoots back by one- to two-thirds.

When Do I Prune Brambles?

Raspberry and blackberries can be prone to disease and pruning inhibits the spread of disease throughout your patch. To insure that light and air can get inside the plants and to facilitate pruning, keep your raspberry plants controlled in a row.

What Kind of Raspberry are Your Pruning? There are 2 bearing categories for raspberry plants:

Summer Bearing (floricane) Raspberries will provide 1 large harvest, usually in late summer or early fall. Summer bearing raspberries bear fruit on 2 year old canes, the canes that sprouted last season.

Everbearing (primocane) Raspberries aren’t really everbearing, but they do generally have 2 harvests per season; one in mid-late summer and one in the fall. They fall crop will probably be a bit smaller and is on 1 year old canes of the current season.

How and When to Prune Raspberries

Late Winter Pruning / Early Spring Pruning – (Before Bud Break)

  • Prune all canes that bore fruit last year; they won’t fruit again. These will have grayish, peeling bark.
  • Remove any canes that have grown outside designated row.
  • Remove any spindly or short canes.
  • Thin so that there is about 4-5 of the healthiest, tallest and fattest canes left per foot along the length of the row.
  • Tie remaining canes to your fencing.

To force your ever bearing raspberries to produce only one crop in the fall, prune back the entire raspberry bush in early spring. As the canes grow back in the summer, remove outside suckers and thin the canes to about 6 inches apart. Keep the sturdiest canes. This technique will give you a larger fall harvest and is good if you also have summer bearing raspberry bushes and you want to stagger the harvests.

Summer Pruning

Prune dead, broken or diseased canes.
Prune any canes that poke up outside your designated row area.

Pruning 101 Conclusion

We hope this pruning 101 post has help to answer some frequently asked questions. Please feel free to leave a comment below with any other questions you might have.

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