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Pruning Shrubs & Ornamental Trees

The lower branches on your shrubs and ornamental trees are especially susceptible to winter damage. This damage could be from wind, snow or animals. These branches are the food that sustains deer and a variety of rodents, including field mice and rabbits.

Now that spring is beginning to appear, it’s time to prune out any dead or damaged branches. Once again, however, I urge you to only prune branches you can reach from the ground. Leave any climbing to the pros. That means no ladders either; pruning branches from a ladder is especially dangerous. And, watch out for falling branches. If you have a hard hat and safety glasses, wear them.

Springtime is the right time to prune some shrubs and the wrong time to prune others. However, anytime is the right time to prune broken or damaged branches. A clean cut can heal, or callus, better than the ragged edge that results from breakage or animal damage. Plants like hydrangeas and butterfly bushes that flower on new wood are examples of species that should be pruned in spring. Removing old canes allows the plant to direct energy to new growth and leaf and flower buds.

Lilacs and forsythia are examples of shrubs that shouldn’t be pruned now. Look at the buds on the branches. Some are flower buds and some are leaf buds. Distinguishing between the two requires a trained eye. So, you could be pruning off the very flowers for which you planted the shrubs.

Ericaceous plants like rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel also should not be pruned now. While these plants may look dead, they probably aren’t. The leaves will rebound once the weather warms up. As mentioned in an earlier blog, broadleaf evergreens’ brown, droopy leaves are their winter defense mechanisms. These shrubs also bloom on last year’s wood. Look at the big buds on the ends of the branches. They’ll blossom forth with beautiful flowers soon. Like all evergreens, June is the best month to prune these shrubs.

If pruning shrubs and ornamentals is a job you’d like to leave to the pros, our arborists would be happy to do your pruning. Contact us and an arborist will visit your property and advise you on which plants should be pruned in early spring and which should wait until after they bloom. When you give us the green light, we’ll schedule pruning at the appropriate time.

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One comment on “Pruning Shrubs & Ornamental Trees

  1. Dave, this is some really good information about pruning trees and shrubs. It seems like if you want to be able to maintain your landscaping your should know these things. I like that you pointed out that if you aren’t up to the task of running or don’t totally understand it that you should hire a professional to do it for you.

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