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Pruning Times: What and When to Prune

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Proper pruning is a good way to help your trees and shrubs stay healthy and strong. This guide is about pruning times: what and when to prune.


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By 1 found this helpful
August 13, 2008

Knowing what and when to prune is essential to maintaining a healthy and aesthetically pleasing garden. Here are some general guidelines on what to prune and when to prune it.

When to Prune

Fruit Trees: Fruit trees should always be pruned before buds start to swell, so usually in late winter or early spring. To maintain shape and encourage air circulation within the canopy, remove any branches growing inward or those growing vertically.

Evergreen Trees: Evergreen trees seldom need pruning. If you prune, wait until after the tree has completed substantial new growth, or you may end up having to prune it again-usually late spring or early summer.

Deciduous Trees: Deciduous trees also seldom need pruning. If pruning is needed to maintain shape, it should be done in mid to late winter while the tree is dormant.

Berry Bushes: Berry bushes are usually best pruned in late fall or early winter. Regular pruning to maintain shape can be done throughout the season, but is best done immediately after harvesting to minimize production loss.

Evergreen Shrubs: Evergreen shrubs don't flower, but some produce cones. Typically, it's best to prune evergreen shrubs between late winter and early spring-after they produce cones.

Deciduous Shrubs: Let the flowers guide you. It's best to prune shrubs back immediately after they flower (usually late spring or summer).

Rosebushes: Older shoots and those turned inward should be pruned by late winter-early spring at the latest. Cut remaining 4 to 8 canes to a length of 12 to 24 inches. Ideally, cuts should be made within an inch above a bud or strong shoot.

Distinguishing Between Plant Types

Fruit Bearing: for pruning purposes, defined as any tree or shrub that bears fruit

Deciduous: any perennial plant, tree, or shrub that loses all of its foliage for part of the year

Evergreen: any tree, shrub, or plant that bears foliage throughout the year

Types of Pruning

Maintenance Pruning: Regular maintenance pruning is usually done annually in order to maintain the general shape and hygiene of plant.

Formative Pruning: Formative pruning is a technique usually reserved for young plants, plants that have outgrown their space, or for plants remaining after another plant in close proximity has been removed (to prevent growth from looking lopsided). Essentially, it's pruning to train or correct shape.

Pruning for Rejuvenation: Occasionally, it's necessary to prune old shrubs to renew their vigor. Some shrubs respond well to hard pruning, while others are better rejuvenated over a period of 2 to 3 years. If your shrub has not been pruned regularly, go slowly and space pruning over several seasons. Select no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest wood in a single season. After pruning, feed plants and keep soil moist and well mulched. Generally, plants that grow more than 12 inches in a season usually respond well to hard pruning. Plants that grow more slowly (less than 12 inches per year) should be pruned more gently and only when necessary.

Pruning for Pests and Disease: Just like it sounds, this type of pruning is done in response to the outbreak of disease or pests.

Shrubs That Respond Well to Hard Pruning

Shrubs Better to Prune Lightly*

*These can be pruned hard, but often take years to recover.

Pruning Tips

Comment Was this helpful? 1
November 12, 20150 found this helpful

Oh wow, that's quite fascinating to know that fruit trees should be pruned and trimmed before the buds start to swell. This sure would be something to be sharing to my wife since it's what she's been wanting to know. Well, since I bought her an apple and a cherry tree she's been wanting to know how to start pruning them.

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By 3 found this helpful
July 22, 2011

We have had a huge 125 foot oak tree right next to our house for over 25 years. We've been told it was close to 200 years old. I have treasured this tree, and threatened to chain myself to it to keep hubby from cutting it down. I finally agreed to let him get it trimmed. The cheapest estimate we got was almost 3000 dollars. Wow, a lot of money so we were hesitant.


On June 7th, I had just finished making breakfast, and decided to lay down and catch a nap. Within fifteen minutes, I thought the world was coming to an end. My beloved tree uprooted and crashed through the kitchen and our sun room.

Luckily we have super insurance through Nationwide, and I can't say enough good things about them. The damage so far has cost close to 200,000 dollars. We are not expected to get back into our home until October. So this is not really finding a way to save money, but finding the money so no one gets hurt or killed.

By Peggy from Cortland, Ohio

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July 25, 20110 found this helpful

Peggy, I'm just so glad you weren't in the kitchen when this devastating event occurred.

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By 1 found this helpful
March 2, 2006

Late Winter Pruning

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 1

Proper pruning is a good way to help your plants and shrubs stay healthy while preparing them for budding. It's best to prune shrubs that bloom in the summer and fall in the late winter or early spring prior to bud development.



Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

March 28, 20150 found this helpful

I live in the heart of the hill country in Texas and want to know if it's too late to prune a deciduous tree that is 8 feet tall. It will grow to over 35 feet. It is three years old. We should have done it last year.

By Julie from Camp Wood, TX

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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