Last Updated on January 1, 2021 by woodcutter
I know DIY instincts are inbuilt in some of us, such that the toolbox has become one of our favorite playthings. You will probably consider picking perhaps a saw so that you prune that tree branch, which sways too much to the wind’s rhythm. “It is just a matter of time before it snaps and hurt somebody” is how you would motivate yourself.
Or perhaps you would want to pick a pair of hedge cutters to prune your shrub to look similar to the one from your favorite home gardening channel. However, the stumbling block has to do with a lack of adequate knowledge on timing and how best to carry out the operation. Sounds familiar? Relax, I structured this article as a straightforward Winter Pruning Guide for Trees and Shrubs with tips that will be handy.
Reason for Pruning in Winter
Wintertime marks the period in which most vegetation will be in their dormant state. In other words, no growth will be taking place during such a period. Pruning during such a time will cancel out any chances of new blooming shoots being removed together with pruned parts. Having it done in winter will also ensure quick recovery soon as the springtime window comes knocking.
If you have a deciduous tree, winter pruning is best because all the branches will be visible thanks to the dropped leaves. However, it is not strictly best for all trees and shrubs. In general, shrubs that bloom new growth should be pruned in winter or early spring, while the ones that bloom on old growth should be pruned in late spring.
Benefits of Pruning Trees and Shrubs
- Pruning effectively maintains the required shape and size of the plant.
- To tidy up the untidy look on our shrubs and trees due to dead or diseased branches.
- Pruning rejuvenates plants that have not been consistently maintained.
- For aesthetic appeal by pruning shrubs.
- To stimulate plant growth, flowering, and fruiting.
Tips To Prune Trees and Shrubs in Winter
1.Prune On A Mild Dry Day
The core purpose is to prevent the entry of infections through incisions sustained by plants during pruning. Common diseases include fungal infections which attack the plant when these incisions get in to contact with water. One such is oak wilt, which targets our beloved oak trees as the name says. This fungi usually infects just after a storm.
If you are to carry out the pruning after such a period, I urge you to apply latex house paint to the cuts sustained. This stops sap-feeding bugs from joining the party, giving further entry to fungi. Aside from this, try imagining pruning on a rainy day. Depressing right?
2. Avoid Pruning Too Early In Winter
This prevents the drying out of the incisions if the temperature drops well below freezing point. The results are none other than damage to the plant or tree. However, this precaution is somewhat subjective because some trees and shrubs favor pruning at such a time.
3. Be Selective On Which Parts To Start Pruning From
Choose dead, diseased branches or those with dead leaves to start the pruning from. Leave healthy ones, only prune them in case they pose a danger to anyone. Recognizing diseased branches might require you to summon your inner investigative powers. With the web, you only click away from downloading catalogs to help you identify a diseased branch.
4. Do Not Leave Out Lower Branches
On all evergreen shrubs and trees, too low branches have to be removed in late winter. This will allow the trees and shrubs to grow taller fast with the coming spring. In addition to this, crowding or clumping of lower leaves can be untidy. It is also best to do the pruning before clumping because it will make the operation an unimaginable challenge.
5. Remove Branches Obstructing Flow Of Air And Light
Prune off overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the tree’s crown. Otherwise, you will have your ornamental plants beneath the tree, such as lawns and shrubs being starved of necessary resources.
6. Prune Branches By the Node
You should identify nodes from where you can prune. Nodes are simply points at which one branch or twig attaches to another. Doing this will prevent you from overdoing the pruning such that the tree or shrub would find it difficult to recover.
7. Time Pruning Well
As mentioned earlier, different plants have different times where pruning can be done without negatively affecting the plant. Here is a compilation of some type of trees and shrubs with their respective ideal pruning times as a guideline. Check out these below:
Best Time To Prune Flowering Shrubs
When does the shrub bloom? Does it flower on growth produced in the same or previous years? These are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself so that you can properly time pruning. In winter and early spring, that being said, prune those shrubs that form their flower buds on “new” wood. Such shrubs falling under this category are abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, clematis, hydrangeas, panicle hydrangeas, potentilla, roses, rose-of-Sharon, shrub dogwoods, Japanese spirea, St. Johnswort, and summer sweet.
On the other hand, for shrubs that bloom on old wood, wait until late winter or early summer to begin pruning. Shrubs falling under this category are as follows, azalea, beauty bush, bridal wreath spirea, spring-blooming clematis, cotoneaster, deutzia, enkianthus, flowering almond, forsythia, mophead hydrangeas, lilacs, mock orange, and witch hazel; the list is endless for me to continue. The fading of spring blooms signifies the best time for pruning these.
So to have delightful shrubs, taking azalea as an example. You can improve the shrub’s form by shortening stems that look out of place. Remember, this is done before the growing season. With the coming of the growing season, you also have to “pinch” growing shoot tips where you require bushier growth.
Best Time To Prune Evergreens
There is no much of a fuss with evergreens such as pine, spruce, and fir because these require little pruning. When you have to prune them, though, (both trees and shrubs) do it late winter or just after this season dies away. During such a period, evergreens will still be lying dormant without the promise of new growth any sooner.
This is why you will notice pine pruning taking place in early June to early July. However, dead, broken, and diseased branches can be pruned at any time of the year without having negative effects. With fir and spruce trees, you will have to prune the shoots by cutting them back just above a lateral bud or even side branch in early spring to promote denser growth. When pruning pines, avoid cutting off one-half to two-thirds of the elongated terminal buds in spring when the candles are approximately two to three inches long. Doing so will retard your tree’s growth; you would not want this, would you?
Best Time To Prune Shade Trees
Shade trees call for pruning to be done late in winter or early spring. Such time is perfect for your maple trees. However, you should schedule pruning spring-flowering trees like cherry until after they flower.
Best Time To Prune Deciduous Trees
As mentioned before, concerning deciduous trees, just after the fall season, when we are heading towards the cold season, it is a perfect time. The absence of foliage at this time gives you a clear view of the tree and allows proper selection and removal of appropriate branches. Additionally, the walling-off of incisions occurs rapidly before the sprouting and growth in spring.
However, trees falling under this class just as they can be pruned towards winter can also be pruned at other times with or without any significant results. Just try by any means, not carrying out the operations in late spring with leaf development.
Best Time To Prune Fruit Trees
As a general rule, pruning must be completed before the tree begins to leaf out in early spring. This is done to prevent any potential losses in fruit yields you were supposed to enjoy had the pruning is not done. You can also carry out fruit tree pruning in late winter. It is impossible to avoid removing some potential fruit while pruning, but just knowing it will later promote optimum growth and fruiting for the next season makes it worth doing.
In conclusion, this Winter Pruning Guide for Trees and Shrub will prove vital for your DIY pruning. However, it will not make you a substitute for a person who does tree pruning for a living. Consider that at times it will prove a daunting task trying to figure out whether a tree has dead branches higher up.
You would have to climb it, which calls for extra safety precautions such as the use of harnesses. In such a situation, I recommend giving a call to a seasoned tree pruner. However, you can have shorter trees all to yourself; remember safety first.