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Depending on the plant, it may be time to prune those landscape trees and shrubs, but be careful, not all plants should be pruned at the same time of year.  Pruning at an incorrect time will remove buds that are already in place for next years flowers.

The best guideline for pruning is to follow the May rule.  If a plant blooms before May 1 prune it as soon as its flowers are spent.  Early spring flowers, before May 1 are produced on last year’s woody growth, and pruning in spring removes the current bloom buds.

Examples: Azalea, Camellia, Forsythia, Spirea. 

If a plant blooms after May 1, prune it before it flowers. Summer flowers produced after May 1 are on new woody growth.  Pruning stimulates new growth and greater flower production.

Examples: Crapemyrtle, Lilac Chaste-tree, Gardenia.

**Exception to the May Rule: All Hydrangeas (summer bloomers) should be pruned immediately after flowering.


Reasons to Prune:

  • To control a plant's size or form, and enhance its beauty and character (aesthetics).
  • To promote a healthy plant by removing damage (mechanical, disease, etc.) and increasing the air and light circulation (improves flowering & fruiting and helps prevent diseases).
  • To direct, confine growth, and prevent potential damage (overlapping branches, poor crotch angles).
  • To stimulate new growth (rejuvenate old plants, fill bare areas, etc).
  • To increase flower and/or fruit production.

General Plant Growth and Pruning Rules:

  • Buds generally grow in the direction they are pointing toward.
  • Removing a plant's terminal bud and its apical dominance causes lateral buds below to vigorous break.
  • Cuts made are local in effect (regrowth usually occurs within 6" of cut)
  • Cuts should be ¼" above a bud or to a crotch (lateral branch)
  • Cuts should be made at angles away from buds to prevent standing water and diseases.
  • Always sterilize pruning equipment after each cut with rubbing alcohol when removing diseased portions of a plant.

Principles for Safety:

  • Keep equipment clean, sharp, and in good repair.
  • Wear appropriate and properly fitted safety equipment for job (eye and ear protection, hard hat, no loose clothing)
  • Keep equipment within your control (don’t over extend; know limitations of your equipment and yourself)
  • Know your surrounding (overhead utilities, other workers, etc.)
  • Be able to identify poison ivy, oak, and sumac, or other skin irritants.


For more information on types and styles of pruning such as renewal pruning, cane pruning, and tree pruning please feel free to visit the following site:

www.aces.edu/Tallapoosa/landscape-gardening/Pruning-Outline.htm - 9k

To view a bloom time list of common shrubs and trees in Alabama landscapes please visit the following site:

www.aces.edu/dept/extcomm/specialty/feb28ggard04.html - 11k 




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