When most people think of pruning they think spring - or summer! But winter is an ideal time for pruning a wide variety of plants in your yard.
Late winter is a good time for pruning in many regions. In fact, one of the safest times to prune non-Spring blooming plants is in the dead of winter, when the plants are dormant. Pruning during this dormant season benefits many trees and shrubs because it provides them with extra root and energy reserves to support new growth on the remaining branches.
Well-pruned plants will produce more flowers or fruit. Careful winter pruning also helps trees and shrubs ward off pests and diseases, so they will require less care in the spring and summer. Pruning will also produce piles of yard waste and debris that will need to be removed before any rains come, as well.
The pruning wounds are only exposed for a limited amount of time before the growing cycle begins. Dormant-season, or winter, pruning is easier for you, too, since you can see the branches more clearly. In winter, the leaves are long gone and most woody plants are dormant.
Pruning in Winter is Not For Every Plant
According to Almanac.com some tips for winter pruning include:
- Prune on a mild, dry day.
- When pruning, first prune out dead and diseased branches.
- Then remove the overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the crown of the tree.
- In general, your goal is to keep the branches that develop or maintain the structure of the tree.
- Cut branches at the node, the point at which one branch or twig attaches to another.
While it is really quite difficult to "kill" or seriously destroy a plant when pruning, it does pay to be careful and deliberate with your approach. Another online publication, Gardensalive.com, has these tips to offer:
"Garden cleanup? If it’s a herbaceous perennial (a plant that dies back to the ground every winter only to re merge in Spring) that doesn’t have big seed pods (like peonies, for instance), go ahead and clean up the dead stuff on top of the soil; these plants are long done collecting solar energy for the season. Wait to apply an inch or two of mulch until AFTER the ground freezes hard for the season. (You’re prevent winter heaving, not keeping the plant warm.) If your ground doesn’t freeze, you don’t have to mulch."
So what plants can you safely prune in the dormant, winter season? Turns out the list is quite extensive! Here is a partial list of some of the most common, or popular, yard plants - shrubs and trees - that can be pruned in winter.
- Camellias (after they have bloomed)
Plants You Should Not Prune in Late Winter
Pallensmith.com suggests that certain plants not be cut back in winter.
This is their list of plants that are better off pruned in late spring or summer.
- Spring Flowering Shrubs such as forsythia, quince, azaleas, Bridal wreath spirea and other shrubs that bloom in spring. These should be pruned immediately after they flower.
- Spring Flowering Trees like lilacs, ornamental fruit trees and Hydrangea macrophylla. The old-fashioned, pompon hydrangeas set bloom buds on the previous year’s growth. It’s safe to remove faded flowers and dead branches.
- Once Blooming Roses, those old-fashioned roses that only flower once each growing season, such as Damasks and Mosses bloom on old wood and should be pruned in the summer after they have flowered.
- Gardenias, which should be pruned immediately after they bloom.
- And "Bleeding" trees such as maples, birches, dogwoods, walnuts and elms that produce copious amounts of sap if they are pruned in late winter. Pruning them in winter won’t hurt the trees, but it will be less messy if you wait until summer.
One of the by-products of all this pruning, sprucing up and thinning out, is yard debris. It doesn't take much to have a collection of "green" trash that is too much for your residental-sized green recycling can. So the challenge becomes what do you do with all the branchs, vines, leaves, stumps, and so on?
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