What To Prune In Spring

The technique of pruning is one that is confusing for novice gardeners who are worried that they will cause permanent damage if they make a mistake. It is complicated by the fact that there are differing opinions as to the best practice. Since pruning at the correct time keeps your trees and bushes healthy and in shape it is important to know when this should be carried out. This article by Jack Phillips which comes from The Master Gardeners website answers this question and provides lists of plants that should be pruned in early spring.

While you are waiting to get started with your early summer gardening, a good early spring project to undertake is pruning certain of the flowering trees, shrubs and other perennials in your yard and garden. Pruning, at the proper time, keeps your trees, shrubs and bushes in shape, encourages new growth and invigorates the amount and quality of your bloom.

The general rule is that you only prune the early spring and early summer bloomers after they bloom, which means very late spring or mid-summer. On the other hand, the late summer and early fall bloomers are best pruned during their dormant stage which is late winter and early spring. There is at least one exception to this rule. For example, while it is true that early spring bloomers set their bud bloom the fall before, it is often easier to prune these plants for shape while they are bare, so you can more clearly see the structure of the plant and before the branches get masked by the leaf growth. Pruning them at this time of year would generally mean losing some or much of the bloom which would otherwise appear later this year. But, when shaping of the plant or shrub is cosmetically critical, the gardener can ignore the general rule just that once. He or she must just understand and accept the consequences. Following are some trees and shrubs that are best pruned immediately after they finish their spring or early summer bloom:

  • Azalea (Rhododendron species)
  • Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
  • Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spirea x vanhouttel)
  • Flowering Crabapple (Malus species and cultivars)
  • Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia)
  • Hawthorne (Crataegus species and cultivars)
  • Hydrangea, Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylia)
  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
  • Magnolia (Magnolia species and cultivars)
  • Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius)
  • Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
  • Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)
  • Slender Deutzia (deutzia gracilis)
  • Weigela (Weigela florida)

See more at The Master Gardeners