trees and perennials are peacefully dormant, slumbering
away winterís cold days until spring wakes them again.
sleepy state is the perfect time to give them a dose of
good health -- pruning to remove diseased, dying, dead,
dangerous, broken, rubbing or crossing branches.
is necessary only for the health of the plant,"
says Kendahl Huber, a shrub and tree expert at Anderson
Home & Garden Showplace in southeastern Virginia.
pruning for personal preference is secondary after
initial corrective pruning."
Va., master gardener Barb Landa agrees.
permits better air circulation and sunlight
penetration," she says.
pruning encourages vegetative growth and can stimulate
flowering and produce larger though fewer fruits."
you prune for good health, you open up the plantís
interior, allowing better air circulation that
automatically reduces pest and disease issues,
especially problems that breed in dark, moist spaces. An
open interior, particularly on azaleas and boxwood, also
promotes green growth inside the plant as it ages.
Shearing a plant into a hedge or box or ball shape
creates an outer green veneer that ultimately ends up
harming the plants overall vigor, according to Virginia
Cooperative Extension experts.
you have a plant thatís too big for the space itís
in, then itís just that -- too big and should be
removed -- not pruned constantly ó and replaced with a
better-sized species. This is why horticulturists,
especially master gardeners, preach the "right
plant in the right place" guide that makes for a
happier, better-managed landscape.
wrong plant in the wrong place most often happens with
"foundation plants" that quickly crowd a house
-- blocking windows and jeopardizing security, impeding
air flow and potentially causing mildew problems and
ruining the overall look and curb appeal of a home.
is a great time to take your tools off the shelf and
give them a little TLC," says Tish Llaneza, owner
of Countryside Gardens, also in southeastern Virginia.
your pruning tools is important to stop the spread of
fungus and disease on plants. Using Lysol to disinfect
causes the least damage to clothes and tools. Also
sharpen and oil your tools to increase their life
pruning tools needed include bypass hand pruners for
small finger-sized woody stems, loppers for thumb-sized
material and a pruning saw for larger branches and
trunks. A fine sanding block removes sap and stain on
blades, and a sharpening stone enhances their cutting
youíre not sure exactly when to prune a plant, so you
donít remove desired flowers, use the universal rule
of always prune after flowers are finished. For example,
if you prune azaleas now, you remove this yearís
blooms, so prune them immediately when flowers are done
or before July when new flower buds set for next year.
are pruned according to the type you grow. Use loppers
or pruning shears to cut Knock Out and groundcover
varieties back to 12-15 inches above ground. Hybrid teas
and other roses need more specialized pruning, leaving
three to five stems and buds directed outward.
including groundcovers, and ornamental grasses can be
cleaned up March-April 1 -- at latest, before new growth
to prune plants like spring-blooming azalea,
rhododendrons and mountain laurel, fragrant daphne,
evergreen holly, honeysuckle, winter jasmine, lilac,
mahonia, forsythia, fothergilla and mockorange when they
finish flowering. Prune now and you remove their
upcoming flower buds.
ľ inch above the bud and parallel to the bud at a
the branch collar (point where a branch joins the trunk
or branch) when pruning.
not use pruning paint; air best heals a wound.
rubbing and crossing branches.
co-dominant leaders ó or where a tree has more than
one single main stem.
dead, diseased, damaged and dangerous branches.
water sprouts, which are shoots that come up from the
trunk or branches.
branches that cross back through the center of the tree.
young trees to train them for strong growth, eliminating
weak branching habits like narrow V-shaped crotches, or
the fork where a main branch joins the trunk.
you prune for health and shape, do not reduce more than
one-third of a plant in a given season, recommends Allan
Hull, a Virginia certified horticulturist and nursery
manager at Peninsula Hardwood Mulch in Yorktown, Va.
is an action, creating a reaction, which changes the
direction or habit of a plantís growth," he says.
he explains some of the pruning techniques you may use
Used in perennials to induce branching, which helps
increase bloom count.
A method that reduces overall bud count so the plantís
energy produces fewer flowers that are bigger; itís a
process used mostly with camellias and roses, and works
with crape myrtles, too.
pruning: The removal of dead, damaged, duplicate
branches, stubs and nubs, suckers and waterspouts and
A process used to shorten branches while retaining
natural buds and reducing overall plant size.
A very hard pruning process used on broadleafs, causing
a plant to start over; it should only be done early to
late spring. Larger plants take longer to recover;
adding fertilizer and watering helps.
A method that reduces the number of branches by removing
duplicate and weaker branches, improving air flow and
The process of indiscriminately cutting both foliage and
branches causing multiple forms of wounds to heal --
also leads to skeletonizing plants.
a plant isnít recommended," says Allan.
time you shear the plant, you reduce the foliage and
cause less food production. Eventually you starve the
plant, causing die back.
have natural forms that are beautiful and meant to be.
Prune your plants so they retain those shapes, and give
them room to grow and show off their natural