Horticulture News: Prune with a purpose to establish healthy plants

By Amanda Sears/ Madison CountyHorticulture Agent, Published:

Believe it or not, spring really is on the way. After a long, cold winter, many homeowners are beginning to turn their attention to their landscapes — or at least thinking about it.

The winter months can be damaging to trees and shrubs. To ensure healthy spring plants, homeowners may want to prune the trees and shrubs around their home. But you shouldn’t just prune for the sake of pruning; make sure you have a valid reason.

Pruning during the late winter months allows you to remove damage caused by winter winds and precipitation.

Pruning also is a way to remove diseased, crowded or hazardous branches. When pruning trees, the size of the tree should not be reduced too much in one season. Limit the pruning amount to one-fourth of the tree’s volume. Start by thinning out branches by cutting them off close to the tree’s trunk or a large limb.

Leave the base of the branch, known as the collar, intact. Cutting the collar will prevent the plant from growing over the wound caused from pruning. Pruning in this manner allows for a healthy tree that is more open to sunlight and air movement.

If the branch is cut back only part way, there will likely be a crowded regrowth of new branches where the cut was made. Do not seal or paint the wounds resulting from pruning, because this will only delay the tree’s healing process.

As a general rule, plants that bloom before June 1 should be pruned after they flower. Those that bloom after that date should be pruned while dormant in late winter. But pruning is not limited to a certain time of year. You can prune at any time if you notice damaged branches and limbs.

Prune now

Trees and shrubs to prune in late winter/early spring while still dormant:

Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), Butterfly bush (Buddleia Davidii), Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Flowering plum (Prunus blireana), Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissiam), Hydrangea, Peegee (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’), Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa), Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Spirea (except bridal wreath) (Spirea japonica) and Wisteria (Wistera species)

Prune later

Trees and shrubs to prune in late spring/summer, after bloom:

Azalea (Rhododendron species), Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), Bridal wreath spirea (Spirea x vanhouttei), Flowering crabapple (Malus species and cultivars), Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia), Hawthorn (Crataegus species and cultivars), Hydrangea, Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla), Lilac (Syringa vulgaris), Magnolia (Magnolia species and cultivars), Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Rhododendron (Rhododendron species), Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora), Slender deutzia (deutzia gracilis) and Weigela (Weigela florida)

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offers publications that can answer many of your pruning and other gardening and landscape questions. 

Online, http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho45/ho45.pdf offers information about pruning trees and http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm offers information about pruning shrubs.

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