It's that time of year when the pruners return to the garden. I'm talking actual people. Gardeners fall into two groups: Those who PRUNE and those who prune. Those who PRUNE are eyeing the garden now with pruners in hand looking for their first victim. Pretty much any plant is fair game. While I identify with the those who PRUNE, let's put the pruners down for a minute and determine what is fair game and what isn't. In other words, do we prune our shrubs in fall?
- Prune flowering shrubs right after blooming.
- Prune non-blooming shrubs in late winter/early spring.
- Do not shear or heavily prune shrubs after July 31st.
- Prune deciduous trees and fruit trees in late winter/early spring.
- Prune conifers in late winter/early spring.
- Rejuvenation prune in late winter/early spring immediately after flowering. See list below for plants that respond well that type of pruning.
You get the idea. Don't prune. But, of course, there are a few exceptions.
- Remove dead or diseased wood anytime.
- Light shaping in fall for shrubs that have uneven growth is okay. Remove stems growing out of the shrub by cutting close to the parent branch, not by shearing. Shearing promotes new growth which is unwanted this late in the season, since it can cause winter damage.
- Cutting boxwoods or evergreens for Christmas decorations is okay but cut as described above, don't shear. Cut close to the parent branch deep inside the shrub to avoid promoting new growth and to hide cuts.
Plants that respond well to rejuvenation pruning:
- Cherry laurels
- Holly shrubs
- Red twig or yellow twig dogwood (The newer stems are more colorful than the older stems, cut back hard every 2-3 years for winter color.)
So, if you are a PRUNER, the bad news is you gotta wait for early spring. The good news is in about two weeks, most of your perennials will need cutting back. Go for it, then.
Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, and blog writer.
B.B.Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.