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Winter Pruning if You’re Wondering

I found this great write-up on gardenbetter.com regarding winter pruning that I wanted to share with everyone. There is certainly a right and wrong way to handle pruning your garden in the winter for optimal growth in the spring. Check it out and if you have questions regarding your garden’s pruning needs, you know where to find me.


Many trees and shrubs should be pruned in the winter. The plants are dormant and cut branches will not “bleed”. For others, a winter pruning ensures a great flush of growth and blooming during the growing season. Every tree or shrub may have its own specialized needs, but following these general guidelines will give a basic direction and avoid disastrous mistakes.

When in Doubt – Don’t!
First and foremost, why are you pruning? This may seem like a ridiculous question, but I have found many people prune out of some vague inner feeling that “I must prune”. The reality is that I have seen an amazing amount of wasted energy with such an attitude as well as, unfortunately, a lot of senseless destruction and garden mayhem. So the first rule is: If you are in doubt, just leave it alone and don’t prune at all. Now that’s what I call low maintenance!

A classic mistake is pruning spring flowering shrubs or fruit trees in winter and, innocently, cutting off all the flowering wood! I have seen this countless times and been asked, “Why don’t I get flowers or fruit?” The embarrassing answer is “because you cut off all the flower buds!” These buds form in late summer or fall and remain dormant through the winter. (Another possibility, by the way, is that the plant is cold hardy in your area, but a late frost can destroy the flowers or new fruits. This is a limiting factor for peaches or almonds.)

Three Basic Rules:
Spring flowering shrubs (read as “flowers on last summer’s wood”) should be pruned after flowering.

Summer flowering shrubs (read as “flowers on new growth of the current season”) can be pruned in the winter.

Plants of borderline hardiness should be pruned after all danger of frost has passed. That way any dieback due to cold damage will be pruned off. Pruning these too early can result in even further dieback.

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