Man pruning bush
ECO gardener

The best time to prune most trees and shrubs is March or early April, which are the late winter to early spring months. Pruning during this period rejuvenates the plants, reduces the plants’ recovery period, and gives them the best chance of survival. Also, pests and diseases tend to spread slowly during the late winter season, further boosting your plants’ chance of survival during the cold months.

That said, not all plants should be pruned in early spring. Plants that produce flowers in early spring, such as forsythia, magnolia, and crabapples, are best pruned late in the spring season when they are done blooming.

Pruning in Late-Winter and Early Spring

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When is the best time to prune trees and shrubs? Should you prune your plants in early spring? Find out here if it’s best to prune late winter or early spring.

Where do I start?

Start with deciduous trees and large, overgrown shrubs just before they leaf out. Avoid heavy pruning in late winter, so the plants are healthy enough to survive the harsh winter cold. Trees that bleed sap, however, should be pruned in the mid-summer or late fall to avoid sap bleeding.

What garden tools do I need?

You need the right tools to prune plants because pruning itself affects the plants’ health. The wrong tools could aggravate the damage caused by pruning, and there is a real chance that smaller plants could die from too much pruning. The right tools for pruning are: hand pruners, hedge pruners, loppers, and telescopic pruning shears.

Hand pruners: Small, hand-held pruner with thick blades that can cut stems up to ¼ to ½” inch thick. This tool is perfect for pruning small plants like herbs, succulents, etc.

Hedge pruners: A hedge pruner looks like giant scissors with short handles and long, skinny blades. A hedge pruner can make even cuts and shape dense foliage with a quick cutting motion.

Loppers: AKA pruning shears, loppers feature thick blades and long handles. Some loppers are fitted with a spring mechanism for added cutting power. The long handles let you reach greater heights, while the thick bypass-style blades let you cut up to 3-inch thick stems.

Telescopic pruning shears: This tool is similar to a traditional lopper design, but the long handles can be extended, allowing you to cut thick branches in high places. With telescopic pruning shears, you don’t have to lug around a ladder to prune some trees.

These are the core pruning tools that every gardener should have. If you want to complete your essential pruning tools, shop here.

Where do I make the cut?

man pruning small branch

It’s essential to make a proper cut to avoid hurting the plants. Prune back above a growing point or to the soil line. The growing point could be a bud or a branch. You want to avoid leaving a stem or branch stub because this will attract pests and diseases. Branch stubs could also lead to storm damage during a wet winter season.

When should I prune flowering shrubs?

Flowering shrubs should be pruned in late winter or early spring to promote vibrant blooms and boost health. While pruning during this period could reduce or eliminate blossoming in the following spring, the shrubs will be at their healthiest, and they’re likely to produce flowers in the future.

Hydrangeas are confusing. When do I prune those?

Hydrangeas must be pruned right after they stop producing flowers in the summer but no later than August. Avoid pruning this plant in the fall, winter, or spring, or you might end up cutting off new buds. If you want the hydrangeas to produce bigger flowers, do not prune the newly emerging leaves in the spring because this will lead to small, multiple flower heads.

When should I prune fruit trees?

man pruning bush

The best time to prune fruiting trees is late winter to early spring, when the trees are least affected by the cold season. Doing the pruning late in the spring to summer could weaken the trees, which will slow down their recovery.

How do I prune evergreens (conifers)?

When pruning evergreens, lightly cut the outermost branch tips as well as the dead or dying branches, if there are any. Conifers produce buds along their stems. Cut about half an inch above the bud and trim the leader.

Do the pruning from April to August when the trees are dormant so the pruned stems can grow and become full again once spring comes around. If you’re pruning too late in the season, the foliage could turn brown, or the cut stems won’t regrow.

How do I remove heavy branches?

You have to use the right equipment to remove thick and heavy branches. Pruning shears, pruning saws, rope saws, and chainsaws are the best tools for cutting thick branches. You’ll need to wear safety gear to prevent accidents.

Create a small notch cut at the bottom of the branch’s limb, about 2 to 3 feet away from the tree’s trunk. Don’t make a full cut – the cut should be about a quarter of the way through. Then, create a relief cut, a cut made about a foot or more from where you will make the final cut. Cut completely through the branch, leaving a shorter branch to the tree. Then finally, make the final cut. The cut should follow the slant of the branch collar, cutting from the bottom and up.

Do I need to paint the wounds?

Pruning paint protects a cut branch from decay or disease that could affect the tree’s recovery response after being pruned. There’sThere’s no need to use pruning paint or any wound dressing, and most experts agree that wound paint could even interfere with the tree’s ability to recover from pruning. Like most living things, trees have natural defenses against the spread of pests, disease, and decay.

How do I restore overgrown fruit trees or hedges?

Pruning helps rejuvenate hedges, fruiting trees, and old trees. Start by pruning the dead, broken, or dying branches, then cut the sucker growth around the bottom of the trunk. Once that’s done, you can start pruning excessive foliage growth to achieve the right shape. If a tree or hedge hasn’t been pruned for years, do not reduce it to the desired height in a single pruning session. Give the tree or hedge a few days to recover from the initial pruning before returning to finish the job. Avoid removing no more than one-third of the tree in a single season.

When should I call a professional?

Call a professional if your safety is at risk or the plant being pruned is so diseased that you’re unsure what to do about it.

If the tree branch is near power lines, surrounding properties, or in high-risk places that could lead to fire, injury, death, or accidents, it’s best to call a professional. Call a professional if the tree branches are severely diseased, and pruning could potentially spread the contamination. The same thing goes if the tree being pruned is too large or if it has died. This has to be dealt with by professionals.

Shop ECOgardener Pruning Tools

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Make pruning a breeze and safe for you and your plants by investing in the right garden tools. At ECOgardener, we’re all about providing high-quality, essential gardening tools that will last for YEARS!

Click here to score great deals on our pruning tools.

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