A question we get all year long is ‘when is the best time to prune my …..fill in the blank?’

Pruning is not difficult but the timing is important as different plants need that hair cut at different times of the year.  As early spring is a good time for some plants- here is a good overview on the what, why and when to prune!  So mark your calendars and please do be careful as pruners are sharp!

Tools of the trade…

Handheld Pruning Shears: Use for cutting stems up to13 mm in diameter. Scissor types (illustrated) cut closer than anvil types, which can crush bark if they are not very sharp.

Hedge Shears: Use for trimming formal hedges when a neat wall of foliage is the goal.

Lopping Shears: Their long handles provide extra leverage, making lopping shears capable of cutting through stems up to 38 mm in diameter.

Pruning Evergreens

Pyramidal Cedars and Junipers may be lightly pruned in early spring to remove any winter-killed tips. By mid-June, it should be apparent that shearing is needed again as the warmer weather produces a rush of growth. Clip them with hedge shears just like a hedge. No upright evergreen should ever be allowed to outgrow its place in the garden.

Spreading evergreens can be similarly sheared or thinned by removing individual branches. Make the cut under an overhanging branch and the pruning will be unseen.

Pruning Conifers

Spruce and Fir produce buds along the branch. New growth should be removed by about half in the third week of June. This provokes dormant buds to break, creates denser foliage and new buds will be set at the cut. The leader of such trees can become disproportionally long and should be cut at this time. Do not cut below the lowest bud or the leader will die back.

Pines do not have buds along the stem, only on the tips. As these buds enlarge in the spring, they are likened to candles. Half of this growth should be removed each year, before the end of June.

Pruning Flowering Vines and Shrubs

These spring flowering shrubs should be pruned immediately after flowering: Caragana, Deutzia, Forsythia, Flowering Almond, Lilac, Purpleleaf Sandcherry, Rhododendron. In the case of Lilac and Rhododendron, even if pruning for size is not required, at least remove the spent flowers and prevent the plant from setting seed. This will make them more floriferous next year.

Summer flowering shrubs should be pruned in early spring before growth begins, then pruned again to remove spent flowers. These include Roses, pink Spirea, Potentilla, Butterfly Bush, Blue Mist Shrub and most Hydrangea.

Bittersweet Vine and shrubs with attractive fruit or berries, some roses, cranberries, etc., offer no best time for pruning. If pruning is required, then do so after flowering, or make use of the decorative berries indoors by cutting the fruited branches Holly berries at Christmas, for example.

Most flowering vines Clematis, Honeysuckle, Silverlace Vine, etc. are extremely vigorous and should be pruned in early spring. Some Clematis, Nelly Moser and Duchess of Edinburgh are examples that flower on old wood, then flower again on new growth. If the vine is overgrown, you may have to forgo blossom in some years.