January 6-7, 2018
There have been several convincing Artic blasts to remind us what winter in north east Texas can be. Buoyed by the fact that Spring is just around the corner, it’s time to plan ahead for late-winter opportunities to improve our land-scapes and get shrubs and trees off to a healthy start for the growing season.
Pruning is vital to the health and productivity of plants, and may be used to train a plant to grow in a certain shape, to enhance flowering, fruiting, and growth, or to control and restrict growth. Generally, the best time to prune is late winter while most plants are dormant and new growth hasn’t begun.
All cuts should be made clean and smooth to aid in rapid healing of the wound. Most woody plants have buds which are in either an alternate or an opposite arrangement. When pruning back to a bud, keep in mind that a bud pointing to the outside of the plant is more desirable than one pointing inside. Future growth of the limb is determined by the direction of the bud.
Shrubs may be thinned to allow more air circulation and sunlight. Weak and dead stems should be removed. If two limbs are rubbing together, one of them should be pruned. Limbs or branches should be cut back from their origin with the parent stem or at the ground. Thinning a shrub in this manner allows room for new growth as the weather warms. Heavier pruning may be done to give an overgrown shrub an opportunity to rejuvenate. In this method, one-third of the oldest, tallest branches are cut off at or slightly above ground level.
Spring flowering shrubs such as crape myrtles, need to be pruned soon after they bloom, because this years blooms come on last years growth. Crape myrtles should be thinned of weak wood, limbs rubbing together, and sucker growth around the base of the plant. Crape myrtles should not be ‘topped’ or cut straight across like a hedge.
Roses may be pruned three to four weeks before the last killing frost. Pruning too early risks damage to new growth from a late freeze. Basic rules for pruning roses are to remove any canes that are damaged, remove one of the two canes that may be rubbing each other, and remove canes that are spindly or smaller in diameter than a pencil. For climbing roses, old canes should be pruned to allow new canes to produce more desirable growth and flowers. Cutting roses is also considered a type of pruning. Leave at least two sets of leaves on the branch from which you are cutting the rose.
Proper tools for pruning will make the job much easier on you and the plants. Pruning shears (scissor or anvil action) and lopping shears should be kept sharp and clean and oiled before putting them away. They may be disinfected using alcohol or a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.
Article provided by:
Dr. Judy Jones
A Hopkins County Master Gardener
January 25, 2018
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