The calendar says spring is here and leaf buds are starting to swell. To prune or not to prune. That is the question. And, a question for which there is no pat answer.
A number of factors enter into the decision of whether to prune or not. The most basic is the species of tree or shrub you’re thinking about pruning. Trees and shrubs can always be pruned for safety (i.e. the removal of weak, broken, crossing or rubbing branches that could break loose and fall, causing injury and damage to people or property).
Species like maple, walnut and birch can be pruned in the spring. Yes, they are “bleeders” but their sap is through flowing so profusely by now. Apple and cherry are OK to prune now, as are stone fruit trees like peaches and plums. Wait for summer for evergreens. They will soon be putting on new growth that will change their shape. Pruning after the new growth is finished means it’ll only have to be done once.
Spring flowering trees and shrubs like dogwoods and lilacs shouldn’t be pruned until after they flower. These plants set their flower buds last fall, so they are on the branches all ready to break forth in a sea of color. There will be plenty of time to prune after the flowers have presented us with their spectacular show.
Every season’s the wrong season to prune your own trees, especially if you have to leave the ground. I can’t emphasize that point enough. Of all your ongoing tree maintenance, pruning is a task that should always be left to our professional arborists who have the experience, training and equipment to do the job as safely as humanly possible.
Shrubs aren’t as dangerous as trees, so you can prune most without putting yourself in harm’s way. While shrubs are easier to prune than trees, the same rules apply. Wait until after spring flowering shrubs bloom. Wait for evergreens to finish setting their new growth. Don’t leave stubs.
Unlike many landscape tasks, pruning has a wide window of opportunity, regardless of the season in which it should be done. Just take your time and be safe. Or better yet, be wise and turn the whole job over to our arborists. Then you don’t have to be concerned about which plants should be pruned in which season.
Summer pruning of fruit trees is a fad here now, which I not only disagree with for most applications, but I find insulting in the Santa Clara Valley that was once famous for orchards of stone fruits, pomme fruits and nuts. People here have no business living in huge homes with tiny yards that are too small for fruit trees, and if they do so, they should not be growing fruit trees. Well, anyway, such trees can technically be pruned by such means if absolutely necessary, but it is still best to prune them once annually, while dormant in winter. Heck, anyone who does not have time to prune in winter certainly will not prune in winter AND in summer. duh. Well, I do not need to worry about those trees now. the flowering cherries will be next, and then the dogwoods, which need only minor trimming.