When (and When Not) To Prune Shrubs and Vines

pruning shrubs and vines

Knowing the right time to prune your trees and shrubs can make a world of difference to your garden. In general, plants should be pruned when they are in their dormant stage. Soon after they will undergo a time of active growth, where any cuts and injuries heal quickly. Most choose to prune their trees and shrubs in the late winter or early spring, since those seasons give plants a long time to rebuild before the following winter. When you prune during the resting period, leaves haven’t fully grown in yet, making it easier for you to see what you’re doing. But there are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb.

1. Take a look at plants that flower in the spring from buds made the previous season. Winter pruning would end up destroying the current year’s bloom. These kinds of plants, like the spring flowering shrubs, should be pruned directly after their blossom period. This is so that those plants have as much time as possible to grow and produce next spring’s flowers.

2. Some plants need to be pruned in late winter or early spring. Examples include narrow-leaved evergreens, broad-leaved evergreens, vines, frost-injured plants, shrubs with colorful twigs, and bush roses. To begin pruning, remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems as soon as you see them. Dead stems have a tendency of attracting insects and developing diseases. If you see any crossing braches, water sprouts or suckers, remove them as well. Also, remove some of the oldest shoots all the way to the ground. This lets younger stems grow out and bloom.

3. Other plants should be pruned after flowering. This includes shrubs or vines that have their flowers in the spring like the flowering dogwood, crab apple, forsythia, rhododendron, azalea, lilac and wisteria. If you prune them too early, you’re preventing the shrubs and vines from fully developing. Contrary to popular belief, the climbing rose is also a plant that’s pruned after flowering. While you need to remove the winter-killed parts during the spring, the rest should be left as is. Any cane that lived through the winter has the potential to grow flowers and therefore shouldn’t be touched just yet.

Pruning your shrubs and vines at the correct time will leave you with a healthy and flourishing garden.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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