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June Is For Pruning Conifers

June is usually when conifer (cone bearing) trees and shrubs are ready to be pruned. This year may be an exception, however. Our cold, wintery May has delayed many plants’ growth and flowering. And it is growth that determines whether conifers need to be pruned at all.

This year, let the tree or shrub tell you when it should be pruned rather than relying on the calendar. The appearance of soft, light green needles at the ends of the branches is the first clue that your tree or shrub is almost ready for pruning. They look like extensions of the branches because that’s what they are. They are the plants’ new growth.

Don’t be in a hurry to reach for the pruners. It takes a few weeks for the new growth to reach its full length. You’ll know the new growth is through elongating when it begins darkening to the color of the other needles on the plant and the new foliage loses its softness. Then it’s time to prune. If you prune any earlier, you’ll only have to do it again because the new growth will keep right on growing.

Never prune just to prune. Prune with a purpose. If you want to just keep the plant at its present size, remove only the new growth. This is easily done with scissor-type pruning shears or loppers. If your objective is to reduce the height or girth, to shape the plant or to raise the crown by removing the lower branches, a saw may be needed in addition to your shears and loppers.

As with all tree pruning, you should leave the job to our professional arborists.
They have the training, experience and special equipment to do the job safely. Stick to pruning shrubs, or you can leave that to our arborists, too.

When pruning coniferous shrubs, I recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt, long pants, leather shoes and gloves. The needles may be sharp, especially if you have to reach into the interior of the shrub to remove a branch. Conifer shrubs are pruned the same way as deciduous shrubs. Don’t leave stubs and remove branches at junctions even if that means cutting at ground level. Know where each branch you cut terminates or you may have a big hole in the foliage, and that won’t look very attractive if it’s in front.

The same guidelines apply to broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and boxwoods. Their new growth is light colored leaves that turn a darker green as the new growth matures. Be sure flowering shrubs like rhododendrons are done blooming before you prune them.

One comment on “June Is For Pruning Conifers

  1. Redwoods are not so finicky. I can prune them at any time. The pines are a bit more risky. Pruning them at the wrong time can attract boring beetles.

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