Advice on Pruning

When should you prune?

Proper pruning of trees and shrubs in your garden is one of the most important tasks of any gardener. Proper pruning means that timing is critical. Of course any trees or shrubs that have broken, diseased or dead limbs should be removed as soon as possible, but for regular maintenance, the following guidelines apply:

  • Fruit trees:Prune in late winter or early spring before any buds begin to swell. Remove branches that are growing inward and all new sucker growth or limbs that are growing straight up. Sterilize pruners before switching to another tree to prevent spreading disease.
  • Roses:Be sure to wear gloves when pruning roses! By late winter or very eary spring, all old shoots should be removed along with any very thin or spindly growth. Remove the canes that grow inward and leave anywhere from four to eight healthy canes. These can them be cut down to about 24 inches above the ground. Try to cut about an inch above a bud or strong shoot.
  • Deciduous trees:Pruning for proper growth is not usually necessary however if your trees require shaping, this should be done in middle to late winter. Flowering type deciduous trees, such as a Dogwood, may be pruned lightly after flowering.
  • Deciduous Shrubs:These should be pruned following flowering in the spring. Cut out any long or gangly branches and leave the limbs that lend to a pleasing overall shape.
  • Evergreen trees:These do not generally require pruning unless they make up a hedge and pruning is necessary for shaping. The best time to prune is after the vigorous growth in the spring and early summer otherwise your pruning will be overgrown in a matter of weeks.
  • Evergreen shrubs:Prune after late winter or early spring, generally after the shrub has produced cones or berries.
  • Berry bushes:Prune in late fall or early winter after the last of the berries have been harvested. Remove dead branches and to keep shape, severe pruning is not recommended.
  • Red Raspberries:Cut back all older (darker) canes in the late fall or early spring, leaving the younger green shoots or suckers to grow and produce fruit the following spring. Black raspberries do not sucker and will fruit on the older wood.
  • Grapes:Cut back in late fall after harvesting. European varieties require spur pruning. Train long branches as guides and then allow shoots or spurs from these guide branches to keep two buds each. The American variety, such as Concord, Delaware or Niagara, need cane pruning. So cut back all the long arms or canes so that each branch is just long enough to have about 9 or more buds.