Most plants benefit from some sort of regular pruning and maintenance. It keeps them healthy and encourages fresh, new growth. The trick is in knowing when to prune what.
A great many flowering and fruiting plants prefer to be pruned while they are dormant, in late winter through early spring. However, there are some, like spring blooming trees and shrubs, that will start setting new buds as soon as the old buds have fallen.
These will need to be pruned shortly after flowering, or you risk pruning off the new buds with the old. And then there are other plants that need to be continually pruned and deadheaded, to remain vigorous and in flower.
Start with the Right Pruning Tools
Whatever plants you have, the first thing you need to consider is the best tool for the job. Sharp, clean tools not only make the job of pruning plants easier, they are crucial to keeping your plants healthy. The four basic tools required for pruning most plants are hand pruners, loppers, shearers, and saws. Here’s a breakdown of which pruning tools are appropriate for your pruning tasks.
Figuring Out When to Prune Your Plants
When to prune can be confusing but pruning at the wrong time is rarely fatal. Pruning at the wrong time of year may result in fewer flowers and fruits, but it usually won’t harm the plant in the long run. The exception to this is pruning too late in the season and encouraging a lot of tender new growth that will be killed back with the onset of winter weather.
When to Prune Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines
Perhaps the most confusing group of plants, when it comes to pruning times, is flowering trees and shrubs. A general rule of thumb is to prune summer and fall flowering trees and shrubs in the dormant season (late winter / early spring) and to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs soon after their flowers fade.
The confusion comes with plants like hydrangeas, roses, and clematis because some of these flower in spring, some in summer or fall, some flower repeatedly. Here are some guidelines for figuring out when your particular variety is best pruned.
Most trees and shrubs benefit from annual pruning. It keeps them in shape, gets rid of dead and diseased wood and encourages new growth. Spring may seem like the ideal time to do this and we are all certainly ready to get out in the garden and start to clean things up. But not all trees and shrubs should be pruned early, especially some of the flowering ones.
Early spring bloomers set their flower buds the fall before.
Pruning them early in the spring would mean pruning off the buds and losing some, if not all the blossoms. It is also one of the most common answers to "Why don't my plants bloom?. A general rule of thumb is to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs right after they bloom and to prune later flowering trees and shrubs in the early spring. This helps guarantee the plants will have time to set new buds and that they will flower for you next season.
Most of the time losing an entire season of flowers is not what you want. However there are exceptions. When you need to rejuvenate an old tree or shrub and make extensive cuts, it’s much easier to prune when you can see the shape of the plant. In that case it would mean pruning while the tree or shrub is dormant, before it leafs out and the branches are masked by leaves. Trees and shrubs that are in need of a good shaping can do with sacrificing a few blooms for one year, to be invigorated by a spring pruning.
Pruning during a tree or shrubs dormant season offers a couple of additional perks that are worth considering. Any kind of pruning stresses a plant. If you prune while the tree is trying to actively grow, it is even more of a burden. Dormant pruning allows the tree or shrub to deal with healing the cut, without having to worry about producing leaves and flowers or sending out new growth.
Another plus is that winter pruned plants are less susceptible to insect and disease problems. Pruning creates an open wound. Although the tree or shrub is perfectly capable of healing itself, it can take several days. In the meantime, that open wound is an invitation for insects, bacteria and fungal spores to get inside the plant. Since most insects and diseases are not active in cold, winter weather, the tree or shrub has time to recoup without the extra stress of fighting off a potential problem.
Although there are rules of thumb, there are no hard and fast rules. To help you out, here is a of list of commonly grown spring flowering trees and shrubs and the best time to prune them.
Trees and Shrubs to Prune in Late Spring/Summer, After Bloom
These trees and shrubs adhere to the rule of thumb to hold off on early spring pruning and wait until the flowers fade. You'll have a couple of weeks grace period, after flowering, to get this pruning done, before next seasons buds begin being set.
■ Azalea (Rhododendron species)
■ Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
■ Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spirea x vanhouttei)
■ Flowering Crabapple (Malus species and cultivars)
■ Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia)
■ Hawthorn (Crataegus species and cultivars)
■ Hydrangea, Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla)
■ Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
■ Magnolia (Magnolia species and cultivars)
■ Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius)
■ Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
■ Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)
■ Serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora)
■ Slender Deutzia (deutzia gracilis)
■ Weigela (Weigela florida)
taken from https://www.thespruce.com/flowering-trees-and-shrubs-
Till next time this is Becky Litterer, Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa