My trees and shrubs are just beginning to leaf out and I decided to do some heavy pruning while I could still see the structure of the plants, and I know pruning freaks people out, so I thought I’d share a few of my pruning tips with you.
One of the easiest ways to approach an initial pruning is the ‘Three D’s‘ – Dead, Diseased and Dying. Clip any of these issues out without a moments hesitation. Your plants will thank you!
I attacked a group of azaleas and took out loads of dead and dying wood. The key thing is you don’t want to leave an area where water can collect and cause further damage – this holds true for any plant. Cut as far into the dead portion as you can and leave the stump at an angle so water rolls off. If an area of the plant is starting to die back, snip that out and also keep the cut at an angle.
Here’s what they look like in bloom. Great shrub!
If there is a diseased portion in your plant, cut it out and get rid of it. Do not add it to a compost pile, burn it if that’s easy or you can bag them up and send them out with the garbage. And remember when you’re snipping at diseased areas of a plant, do not move onto another healthy section without sterilizing your pruners. Either rub them down with some alcohol (gin and tonic doesn’t count) or dip the blades completely into a coffee can filled with rubbing alcohol. Just don’t spread the nasties around!
Another pruning tip is to cut any branches that cross another branch. They can blow in the wind and chafe the other limb which will eventually cause permanent damage. They can also grow together and fuse over time creating a major pain for you and a huge pruning nightmare down the road. I inherited several overgrown trees when we bought our house and I’ve been patiently trying to correct the problem over the last few years. Slow and steady is the only way to approach them at this point because you don’t want to take too many, large, living branches out at one time.
Like my illustration?
Pruning also has the advantage of opening trees and shrubs to air and light – always a good thing for both disease prevention and the heartiness of the plant. If you’re in doubt aim for a V shape generally. If you’re still nervous and looking for comprehensive pruning tips that also include flowering times etc., try this link to a Master Gardener program.
That’s my basic attack plan when I’m pruning just about anything. Take a step back, study the shape and then dive in without hesitation. Good luck and get those pruners going!