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Tips on Pruning Timing and Techniques

Early spring is a great time to prune many trees and shrubs. Start by making sure your pruning tools are nice and sharp. Then check out the following pruning tips for successful snipping this spring.

1. Summer flowering shrubs that bloom on the current season’s growth, such as panicle hydrangea, rose-of-Sharon, and Japanese spirea, can be pruned in early spring to shape the plants, remove older or damaged branches and promote flowering. Plants that are used in formal hedges and foundation plantings such as yew and privet can be trimmed with hedge shears to shape and to spur new growth.

2. Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, deutzia, and spring flowering spireas until shortly after they have finished blooming. Their flower buds are already formed and pruning before bloom will decrease the floral show.

3. Azaleas can be pruned immediately after they are through blooming to maintain their form. On rhododendrons, remove all spent blooms by snipping or snapping them off at the base of the flower truss, taking care not to damage the buds or new growth arising at the base of the flower truss. To increase blooms, pinch off about an inch of new growth to encourage more shoots to form that will each develop flower buds. But otherwise, broadleaf evergreens need little pruning except when they are young. If you choose a plant whose mature size fits the space allotted to it, you’ll only need to do a little light trimming to shape any wayward growth.

4. Start spring clean-up of roses by cutting out all wood that died over the winter. Cut canes back to healthy, live wood just above an outward-facing bud. Then prune to shape the bush and achieve the desired height.

5. Trim evergreen shrubs like junipers from the bottom up. Shorten branches that are expanding beyond the desired length by cutting them back to a lower branch beneath an overhanging branch. This provides a cleaner look, with the cuts hidden by the branches above.

6. To encourage denser growth or control size, prune pines by snapping off the ends of the new growth ″candles″ before the needles begin to expand. Trim one-third to one-half of the candles to form a fairly dense tree. If you need to severely restrict the current year’s growth, some of the candles can be completely removed at their base.

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