Late February is the ideal time to prune deciduous shrubs and trees. Not only is it easier to see what you’re doing since the leaves are off, but pruning just before new growth starts is the safest time for the plants. Never take off more than 1/3 at a time. Prune for the health of the plant.


Late February is the ideal time to prune deciduous shrubs and trees. Not only is it easier to see what you’re doing since the leaves are off, but pruning just before new growth starts is the safest time for the plants. Never take off more than 1/3 at a time. Prune for the health of the plant.

 

• Always remember the “4 Ds” and remove them first. When you prune a shrub or tree, first take out dead, diseased, damaged and dinky wood, in that order. Next, take out any crossing limbs, because they will rub together and open wounds that will allow disease, decay and insects to enter.

 

Next, take out branches growing inward that block sun and air from getting to the center of the plant. Remember, never remove more than 1/3 of a plant at one time.

 

• Prune shrubs for a natural shape. Do not just cut the tips back, especially all to the same length, unless you like the green meatball effect.

 

For a natural, beautiful shape, take out 1/3 of the older, larger branches down to ground level each year.

 

This will keep your shrubs rejuvenated and produce the most flowers. Don’t prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom or you will cut off many of the flowers for this year.

 

• Use the three-cut method for larger tree limbs. Once you have removed the “4 Ds,” you may need to limb up a tree to get more air and light to the grass or plantings underneath or to be able to walk or mow underneath without being attacked by low-hanging branches.

 

For larger limbs, make an undercut on the limb about 8 inches out from the trunk and about 1/3 of the way into the limb.

 

Then make a second cut one or two inches past the first cut to take the limb off and a third cut outside of the branch collar, not flush with the trunk.

 

This will keep the limb from splitting and damaging the trunk and will help it heal without disease, decay or insect damage.

 

Do not apply wound dressing or anything else over the cut. Let nature do the healing.

 

• Do not top or hatrack a tree. This is the unsightly and damaging procedure used to cut back trees under power lines and results in weak, rapid growth of the tree, slow decline and eventual death.

 

• Thou Shalt Not Commit Crepe Murder! Drive around the banks, restaurants and drive-throughs in town right now for a perfect example of how not to prune crepe myrtles!
You wouldn’t pay some untrained person with a chainsaw to lop off the tops of your Dogwoods, Redbuds or Japanese Maples, so why would you let them near your crepe myrtles?

 

It’s better not to prune at all than to mutilate a crepe myrtle.

 

There are beautiful, well-maintained crepe myrtles all across town that are lovingly cared for by homeowners who have let these graceful southern trees reward them with four seasons of beauty year after year with very little pruning on their part.

 

Happy pruning and happy gardening!