A tree’s appearance and health is directly related to pruning. Fast growing trees such as maples and crape myrtles require a great deal of pruning. Other trees or shrubs may require none whatsoever. There are two basic types of pruning; thinning out and heading back.
Thinning out means to cut off specific branches all the way back to the point of its origin. This technique is used when you want to inspire growth to increase height, or to open out a shrub or tree which is too dense. This type of pruning allows more energy to be used by the remaining branches.
Heading back means cutting back the smaller branches or individual buds. This technique serves many purposes. Increased flowering, denser leaf cover, size and shape control are just a few results of this method.
When To Prune: If you are pruning for safety reasons or to control disease, you can prune anytime. The seriousness of the problem should dictate the timing. Most pruning, however, should be in the late winter or early spring before the buds break. Specific plants require different timing, and we will cover some of those later. Early to mid summer is also a good time for trees, but don’t wait too long or you will interfere with the trees food storage for the coming year.
How to Thin Out:
- Find the correct tool for the job. You want to use something that will provide a clean cut. The cleaner a cut is, the reduced chance of infection. It is also much easier to cut if you use something reflective of the size of the job.
- Cut all the way back to the origin of the branch, whether it be another branch, or the trunk itself.
- Always cut at an angle.
How to Head Back:
- Find the correct tool for making a clean cut
- Trim just below the buds after the plant flowers.
- If trimming into a hedge, be sure that sunlight can reach the lower branches or the hedge will be see-through.
Special Tips and Things to Remember:
- Cutting a branch or bud results in more growth 2-4″ below your cut.
- When cutting off large limbs, be sure to trim off some of the bark of the branch so when it falls it does not rip bark off the trunk.
- Overgrown and dense shrubs will bloom less than one that is more open.
- Try to prune trees to have one tall leader, this provides for a stronger trunk and a faster grower.
- Prune off all shoots at the base of a trunk as well as any diseased branches.
- Prune azaleas lightly right after they bloom and it will flower more the next season.
- Your local extension office has many specific brochures if you run into special problems.