At Organic Solutions! Inc., we are gearing up for Spring and getting ready to start our spring pruning and clean-ups.  Pruning is an art as well as a science, knowing how to prune as well as when to prune can make all the difference on how well your shrubs and trees grow and thrive. 
For the novice pruner, a good place to start is to remove dead, diseased, or damaged stems/branches in order to prevent disease or insect infestation.  After these have been removed, pruning should focus on removing crossing branches, water spouts (vigorous shoots that grow straight up from the trunk or side branches) and suckers (those shoots that develop beneath or near the ground).
Proper pruning techniques are important but there are rules of thumb that need to be observed as to when to prune.  In today’s blog, we will highlight some of the best times to prune for a variety of flowers, edibles, shrubs, and trees.
Flowers look best when you remove the old and fading flowers, a process known as deadheading.  This process allows them to put more energy into blooming rather than going to seed, and in many cases result in even more blooms.  Annual flowers don’t need a lot of pruning, but you can prevent sprawling and help the plants to look more dense by removing some of the long, bare stems.  Perennial flowers can become tall and leggy and flop over, when this happens you can try shearing them back to 6-12 inches above ground which will help them to branch out and become stockier.
Edibles, such as berries and grapes also require pruning.  Grape vines require extensive pruning to keep them productive.  It is best to prune grapes during the dormant season.    Bush berries such as blueberry, gooseberry, and currant bushes are most productive when one third of the oldest stems are cut to ground level in winter.  Cane berries such as raspberries and blackberries typically grow on stems called canes which don’t fruit until its second year of growth.  As these canes fruit and die a new years growth is also developing that will fruit the following year.  After the cane has finished bearing they won’t bear again need to be removed.  You can also pinch back the tips of the first-year canes when they reach about 3-4 feet in order to cause the cane to branch.  An exception to this rule are Everbearing type of raspberries.  This variety will develop fruit on first year canes.  Don’t pinch them back but allow them to flower and fruit.  In winter you can remove the stem tips of the canes that bore fruit so that it will produce a crop the following spring and then you can remove that cane completely.
Shrubs that don’t produce showy blooms such as barberry and burning bush can be pruned almost anytime except in late autumn.  If you want to do major pruning on these bushes, it is best to wait until the shrub has gone into dormancy in the winter.  Shrubs such as boxwood and privet are often sheared to form a hedge.  To maintain good growth, shear the new growth frequently during the early part of the growing season.  It is best to keep the top more narrow than the bottom so that the upper branches don’t shade the lower branches.  Stop shearing hedges about 6 weeks before the first frost. 
Spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as lilac and rhododendron bear flowers on wood formed the previous year.  The best time to prune them is in late spring as soon as they finish blooming.  If you wait you will end up removing flower buds and decrease the amount of bloom for spring.  It is a good idea to remove some of the oldest shoots all the way to ground so that younger stems can grow and bloom. 
Summer-blooming trees and shrubs such as butterfly bush and crape myrtle produce flowers on new growth from the current season.  It is best to prune these in the winter when dormant or in early spring before new growth.  You can even cut them all the way to the ground in late winter and they will still bloom that summer. 
Roses such as climbers and old garden varieties that bloom only once a year should be pruned after they finish blooming.  Repeat bloomers including hybrid tea roses and modern shrub roses are pruned mostly to retain shape or remove winter damaged canes.  If they do become overgrown, cut them back in early spring.
Trees come in all shapes and sizes and each variety has specific pruning needs.  For deciduous trees such as oak, linden, and ash they should be pruned when they are dormant in winter.   Some trees such as maples, birches, elms, and dogwoods are known to produce heavy sap flow when pruned in winter.  This sap may be unsightly, but doesn’t harm the tree.  But if you desire you can prune these varieties when their leaves have fully expanded in the summer.
Deciduous fruit trees (apples, crabapples, peaches, pears, plums, and cherries) should be pruned in midwinter.  Although it may remove some of the flower buds, it will open up the tree and allow in more light for a better crop of fruit.  If you wait and prune during the growing season you can expose the tree to bacterial disease.
Evergreen trees and shrubs also have different pruning seasons, depending on type.  Most broadleaf evergreens such as holly need little pruning.  The best time is early spring, just before their growth spurt but you can do minor shaping/pruning at other times of year as well.  Needle-leaf or scale Evergreens such as juniper, cypress, yew, fir, and arborvitae are best pruned early in the growing season.  You can trim a few branch tips in midwinter for indoor decorations.   True pine trees are more particular and form buds only at the branch tips before the stem becomes woody.  For best results prune only a portion of the new growth (candle stage) before the needles have fully expanded.  Prune only about half of the expanding “candle”. 
At Organic Solutions! Inc., we can expertly prune your trees and provide seasonal clean up services to keep your yard beautiful all year long.  If you live in the Treasure Valley and would like an estimate for any or our lawn care or landscaping services, call us today, 208-884-8986

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