The best friend on earth of man is the tree: when we use the tree respectfully and economically we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.
Timing Is Key to Successful Pruning
The cold-weather climate of Jackson Hole (USDA Hardiness Zone 4b) limits the plant species that will thrive here with our short growing season.
So we need to make the most of what we have. Properly pruning your trees and shrubs will ensure their optimal growth and flowering potential.
But knowing when to prune is just as important as knowing how.
Four Reasons to Prune in the Spring
To remove branches that didn’t survive the winter. These dead branches take up space and deplete resources, hindering the growth of healthy branches.
- To manage disease. Pruning in late winter / early spring makes trees and shrubs less vulnerable to disease and disease-carrying insects
- For more precise pruning. Bare branches make the tree’s structure easier to evaluate, and they provide easier access to the tree’s core.
- To allow healing. By pruning in the spring, you limit the time the pruning “wounds” will be exposed to harsh conditions, since the growing season is right around the corner.
Let’s take a look at a spring pruning time table for some trees and shrubs that are popular in our local landscapes.
Late Winter or Early Spring Pruning
Trees and shrubs that should be pruned during dormancy in either late winter or very early spring include:
Mountain Ash – Prune in late winter while tree is still dormant.
Blue Spruce – Prune in late winter, if healthy. Remove dead branches at any time. Blue Spruce is virtually self-pruning unless diseased.
Red Osier Dogwood – Requires only minimal pruning of older stems in late winter / early spring.
Early Spring Pruning
Trees and shrubs that should be pruned in early spring include:
Hawthorn – Requires only minimal pruning in early spring when tree is dormant.
Roses – Most roses should be pruned in the early spring around the time forsythia is in bloom. Whether you prune after flowering is species dependent. However, it’s important to prune at a 45-degree angle ¼ inch above a bud that faces outward.
Snowberry – Prune in early spring before new growth
Amur Maple – Prune in early spring. Pruning too late in the season results in the production of unsightly sap.
Willow – Prune in early spring before leafing if major reshaping is needed; otherwise, you can prune at any time. Willows are very hardy and can tolerate heavy pruning.
Juniper – Prune in early spring before budding. Be careful not to overprune.
Chokeberry – Prune in early spring just before new growth.
Mid-to-Late Spring Pruning
Trees and shrubs that should be pruned in mid-to-late spring include:
Lilac – Prune after flowering in mid-spring. (However, large branches should be removed in late winter.) Lilacs require a lot of pruning to retain their shape and produce dense flowers and leaves.
Flowering Crabapple – Prune after flowering in mid-to-late spring. (However, suckers should be removed in late winter.)
Potentilla – For fullness, prune in mid-spring.
Mugo Pine – Prune in mid-spring when actively growing. Pines are the only species that should be pruned when actively growing. (Note: Lodge pole pines do not require pruning at all.)
Serviceberry – Requires only minimal pruning after spring flowering. If pruned too late in the summer, new leaves will not emerge the next year.
Spirea – Prune in late spring after flowers fade. Spirea should be pruned at least every other year.
The ABC’s of Pruning
Now that you know when to prune, let’s look at how. The following video, produced by the Arbor Day Foundation, provides instructions on the ABC’s of pruning:
Here’s an even closer detail of how to make the individual cuts:
At The Tree and Landscape Company we employ full-time arborists who are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). We would welcome the opportunity to visit your property and demonstrate proper pruning techniques.
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted