UACES Facebook Pruning: Why, When, And How
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Pruning: Why, When, And How

Proper pruning enhances the beauty of almost any landscape tree or shrub, while improper pruning can greatly reduce or ruin its landscape potential.

Hot Springs, Ark. –  Proper pruning enhances the beauty of almost any landscape tree or shrub, while improper pruning can greatly reduce or ruin its landscape potential.  Here are a few pruning basics to remember.  February to early March is a good time for pruning, but be sure you know which plants need it. The general rule for pruning ornamental plants is the timing of the flowers.   1.  Plants that bloom in the summer such as crape myrtles, althea, butterfly bush, and summer spireas bloom on new growth and can be pruned now. Correct pruning can actually increase summer flowering.  2.  Anything that blooms in the spring should be left alone until after it blooms.   Non-blooming evergreen plants that simply need a little shaping or shearing can be pruned a little at any season, but if they really need severe pruning, do that now or early next month so the recovery process happens quickly.  Roses need specialized pruning.  Know what type of rose bush you are growing.  To prune hybrid tea roses remove all dead and diseased stems and cut them back 8-18 inches from the ground. Make all cuts ¼ inch above a strong outward facing bud. Shrub roses are usually so vigorous that pruning is needed periodically to thin out crowed stems and make way for new growth.  Climbers should be allowed to bloom in the spring before you prune them back.

Landscape trees can be pruned now.  It is better not to prune them at all than to do it incorrectly.  Improper pruning methods can weaken or deform healthy plants.  Pruning, like any other skill, requires knowing what you are doing to achieve success.  The old idea that anyone with a chain saw, pruning saw or lopping shears can be a landscape pruner is far from the truth.  More trees are killed or ruined each year from improper pruning than by pests.  Remember that pruning is the removal or reduction of certain plant parts that are not required, that are no longer effective, or that are of no use to the plant.  Pruning, which has several definitions, essentially involves removing plant parts to improve the health, landscape effect, or value to the plant.  Once the objectives are determined and a few basic principles understood, pruning is a matter of common sense.  The necessity for pruning can be reduced or even eliminated if you initially select the proper plant for the location.  Advances in plant breeding and selection in the nursery industry also provide a wide assortment of plants requiring little or no pruning.

Fruit trees, blueberry bushes, and grapevines also need annual pruning and now is the time.  Annual pruning is needed to get the most production for these crops.  Fruit trees should be pruned every year to maintain their health, encourage balanced growth and productivity and control their size and shape. When you plant a fruit tree, you should be dedicated to giving the tree proper care and pruning to maximize both fruit quality and quantity throughout the life of the tree.  Thinning out the trees, removing any over-crossing limbs and excess water sprouts encourages the remaining fruits to grow larger. Increasing air circulation and sunlight penetration also helps with controlling insects and diseases.  

Muscadine grapes simply need a general shearing, while table grapes require that you count buds.  A well established, older grapevine in full sun can have a total of 60 buds left on the vines after pruning.  Young grape vines should only have 10 -15 buds left.  If you leave too many fruiting buds you end up with more fruit than the vine can support.  Instead of a ripe cluster of fruit, you end up with one grape at a time ripening and the size is greatly reduced.  Blueberry bushes should have an equal number of 1,2,3,4, and 5 year-old canes.  After five years the canes become overly woody and production goes down. 

It is time to cut back your ornamental grasses and other perennials foliage that you let remain for the winter.  Check to see if any new growth has begun before pruning so you don’t have any cut edges on this season’s growth.  Removing the foliage on evergreen Liriope and Mondo grass gives them a cleaner start.   

More information is available on pruning at our website www.uaex.edu and search for MP167 “Pruning Ornamental Plants” or call our office at 501-623-6841.

Master Gardeners

If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information, you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge.  You may also call the Extension office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email abates@uaex.edu.

EHC Information

Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email jvincent@uaex.edu

4-H Information

We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.  For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at lbates@uaex.edu.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

By Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Allen Bates
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
abates@uaex.edu

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  • The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

    The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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