Winter Pruning

Not many people think about pruning during the winter, but it can be one of the best times to do it. You don’t have leaves getting in the way and most of the plants are dormant. Keeping plants pruned can help them produce more flowers and fruit, and even ward off pests and diseases. Pruning also helps maintain the plant’s shape or improve its overall appearance. But the best reason to prune in the late winter while the plants are dormant is to provide a small window exposing the plant’s wounds which will encourage abundant growth when the growing cycle begins.


Depending on where you live and what climate you live in, this answer will vary. There is a window that you need to work within that typically lasts a month to six weeks. Winter pruning should occur before the new spring growth occurs, but after the peak cold of winter. 


It’s important to note that not everything should be pruned during the winter season. Taken from Pallen Smith’s Gardening and Home blog, here is a list for you:

Summer Flowering Trees – Ornamental trees that bloom in summer such as Crape Myrtles, Vitex, Smoke Tree, Rose of Sharon.

Hydrangea paniculata and H. arborescens – Unlike their cousin H. macrophylla, these two hydrangeas bloom on new wood so cut them back hard to promote growth and flowers.  H. paniculata can be cut back to two buds above the base of the flower stem. Prune H. arborescens back to varying heights of 1 to 3 feet from the ground.

Fruit Trees – Fruit trees flower on growth from the previous season, but pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, so there will be some flower and fruit loss.  The good news is that pruning promotes vigorous growth and larger, better tasting fruits.  Each type of fruit tree has some special requirements so do some research before you begin cutting.

Roses – Hybrid tea, old-fashioned, and climbing roses should be pruned right before the leaf buds break or, if you live in a northern region, pruning should be done when you remove winter protection.


What NOT to Prune in Late Winter

Spring Flowering Shrubs – Forsythia, quince, azaleas, Bridal wreath spirea, and other shrubs that bloom in spring should be pruned immediately after they flower.

Spring Flowering Trees – Lilacs and ornamental fruit trees.

Hydrangea macrophylla – Old-fashioned, pompon hydrangeas set bloom buds on the previous year’s growth.  It’s safe to remove faded flowers and dead branches.

Once Blooming Roses – Old-fashioned roses that only flower once each growing season, such as Damasks and Mosses bloom on old wood and should be pruned in the summer after they have flowered.

Gardenias – These should be pruned immediately after they bloom.

Bleeding Trees – Maples, birches, dogwoods, walnuts, and elms produce copious amounts of sap when they are pruned in late winter.  Pruning won’t hurt the trees, but it will be less messy if you wait until summer.

Being proactive about pruning can yield some fantastic results in the spring time. If you’re not sure where to start, or if you just don’t have the time, it’s a good idea to contact your local landscaping or tree care professionals. If you would like to know more about how Lyndon Tree Care & Landscaping can meet your landscaping (specifically pruning!) needs during the winter, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!