Optimal Pruning Times for the Most Common Types of Plants

Bright yellow daffodils have started dotting my neighborhood. Not only are they a beautiful signal that Spring is around the corner, but they’re also a vibrant reminder that it’s time to start thinking about gardening. What seeds will you sow? What perennials do you expect to pop back into bloom? And, what maintenance do your lawn and gardens need?

Most growers know that pruning is necessary footwork to keep shrubs and trees looking their best. After all, a proper pruning lops off dead or diseased wood and weak or crossed branches. The benefits include stimulating new growth, encouraging strong branching and increasing good air circulation so plants stay nice and healthy. By all appearances, pruning is the horticultural equivalent of a great haircut.

Timing when to take shears to shrubs can be as important as the act itself. Whether you choose to do the heavy lifting (er… cutting) or hire a professional is up to you. Either way, it’s good to know when your roses, hydrangeas and different types of trees will need a trim.

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Generally speaking, when to prune depends on how your plants bloom – on old or new growth. Here is a more specific rundown of the optimal pruning times for the most common types of plants.

Roses Any flower lover will likely say that roses are the queen bees of gardens. These days, most varieties are modern, including newer shrub roses, floribundas, and hybrid teas. Typically, these produce blooms on new growth. They should be pruned when dormant, right before the leaf buds swell. For mild-winter climates, plan to prune in mid- to late-winter. For colder zones, wait until spring, once the threat of frost is over.

Fruit Trees For gardeners lucky enough to live in zones that support the growth of fruit trees – whether they be apple, plum, peach or cherry – you get the beauty of the plants and the bonus of delicious fruits. Take care of trees by pruning in late winter when they are dormant. This will let you see exactly where to make the cuts, which will heal quickly come spring-time. Pruning fruit trees works double duty by promoting new branch growth and stimulating fruit development once unproductive branches are removed.

Hydrangeas What a sight it is to see lovely hydrangeas in full bloom. For pruning, hydrangeas that produce blooms on old growth should be pruned back in late summer, while those that bloom on new growth should be pruned in late winter or early spring.

Flowering Shrubs Prune flowering shrubs according to when they bloom. For plants that bloom in from spring to early summer, prune in the summer once the flowers have faded. Shrubs that flower later, like from summer to early fall, should be pruned between late winter and early spring.

Flowering Trees If you have trees that bloom in spring into early summer, like dogwoods, prune in summer after flowers fade. For trees that bloom in summer, these should be pruned in late fall through early spring.

Deciduous Trees It makes sense that you want to prune trees that lose their leaves once most of the leaves have fallen, so you can see your work and rest assured that they are dormant. Depending on where you live, this will be in winter or early spring, before the trees begin to develop new leaves.

Needle-Bearing Shrubs and Trees Think of trees like yew and sycamore for this category. Pruning is best in early spring, while the trees are still dormant. An exception is for sycamores, which are best pruned in winter, just after their leaves have fallen.

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