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Seasonal Tip

Pruning Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs
June 21, 2009

Now that we are entering into summer, it is time to prune spring's flowering shrubs and trees.

Many people prune only when a tree or shrub has outgrown its area, but there are many other reasons to prune. Pruning increases flower and fruit abundance, and the vigor of a plant by spurring new growth. It is used to open up the interior of a tree or shrub to let in more light and air, helping the plant grow better and resist foliar diseases.

Spring flowering trees and shrubs bloom on one-year-old wood: next year's flowers will be formed on the twigs that grow this summer. The buds develop around mid-summer to early fall. Therefore, the time to prune these plants is now.

Keep in mind shearing and pruning are two completely different practices. Shearing gives your plant a haircut. Leaves and stems are removed from the outer perimeter of the plant and the plant tips only. This is fine for hedges and screens, but it is not ideal for spring blooming trees and shrubs.

Shearing removes the growing tip of the plant, causing the buds along the sides of the stem to begin growing. Such dense growth blocks sunlight from reaching the inner portion of the tree or shrub. The stems that do not receive light become barren. Soon there will only be leaves and flowers on the outer edge of the plant and the inside will be bare.

Pruning incorporates thinning cuts into the process. This not only removes the growing tip of the plant but also thins out the inner portion of the plant as well. Thinning cuts increase air circulation and allow sunlight to penetrate into the center of the plant. The tree or shrub has plenty of room to accommodate the new growth that will occur after pruning. Flowers and leaves will be in abundance all over the plant, rather than only at the top or outer edges.

Pruning may be intimidating to some gardeners. In reality, pruning is like any other fundamental gardening technique. By applying a few easy rules: What to do, How to do it, and When to do it - you will be on your way to beautiful and healthy blooming shrubs and trees.

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