Spring Pruning – When Should You?

Why is it that the first warm day brings out homeowners with their pruning shears to snip here, snip there without much rhyme or reason?

Pruning shears cutting a branch in spring.Pin
Photo Credit: @plantcaretoday

Pruning Tips to Remember

  • Remember, spring-blooming trees and shrubs should be left alone until after they have bloomed or you may cut off all the flower buds.
  • Shrubs that bloom in July or later can be pruned now (March). Awkward branches may be removed at any time.
  • If a branch is over one-half inch in diameter better use lopping shears or a saw rather than a good pair of pruning shears.

As a side note there is also a “Best Time” to spray for bugs – more.

Basic Pruning Cuts

Here are the 4 different types of “pruning cuts” used for different purposes. These techniques can be combined can help you achieve the desired shape and health of your trees and shrubs.

Heading Cuts

  • Purpose: To remove the top portion of a branch, cutting back to a specific bud.
  • Method: Cut about one quarter of an inch above a bud at a 45-degree angle.
  • Result: Stimulates the buds beneath the cut to become new branches, which is beneficial for flowering shrubs and fruit trees as it can lead to more buds, flowers, and fruit.
  • Consideration: Avoid heading cuts if the aim is to open up a plant, as they can increase density.
Pruning shears cutting a branch in spring.Pin
Photo Credit: @plantcaretoday

Thinning Cuts

  • Purpose: To remove entire branches within a tree or shrub, thinning out the interior.
  • Method: Cut just outside the enlarged collar at the base of the branch without leaving a stub or cutting into the collar.
  • Result: Directs energy up the main branch, promoting stronger growth and opening up the plant to more light and air.
  • Consideration: Thinning cuts may cause a tree or shrub to grow taller or wider than desired if lead branches are left intact.
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Re-leadering Cuts

  • Purpose: To remove part of a lead branch above a lateral, making the lateral the new lead.
  • Method: Cut no more than one-quarter of an inch above where the main branch meets the lateral at an angle between straight across and the slope of the lateral.
  • Result: Reduces the height and width of trees and shrubs, and slows their growth.
  • Consideration: The lateral must be at least one-third the diameter of the main branch to support its new role.

Jump Cuts

  • Purpose: To reduce the weight of a branch before making a final cut to prevent tearing.
  • Method: Three-part cut sequence – an initial undercut one-third to one-half way through the branch, a top cut one-half to one inch further out, followed by the final cut just outside the branch collar.
  • Result: Safely removes heavy branches without damaging the plant.

Spring Pruning is Crucial

Spring pruning is a crucial gardening task that ensures the health and beauty of your plants. The timing and method of pruning depend on the type of plant you’re dealing with.

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