Honestly, pruning is my least favorite landscape chore. I just hate the thought of cutting into my plants and seeing bare stems and fresh cuts. Especially in the early spring, when everything already looks so, well… ugly. But we must for an array of different reasons. The first is for the health of the plant. When pruning, look for rubbing, crossed branches, dead stems, and diseases and trim these out. Maintenance is another reason to sharpen those shears. Maintaining hedge form, size of the plant, shape, and to encourage flowering. Prune to correct defects, but try to maintain a natural form, unless you are training a hedge.
What to prune in spring…
- Ornamental grasses: Tie off the tops to keep it easier for you and cut as close to the ground as possible.
- Semi woody perennials: cut back Russian sage and butterfly bushes
- Broad leafed evergreens: boxwood, holly, etc prune out winter damage but wait until late spring to shear/shape so the new growth will cover the cuts.
- Knock out roses: these hardy shrubs can either be lightly pruned or cut way back to about 12”
- Prune paniculata hydrangeas and Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ (not moptop blue types).
*Mark your calendars* Trees and shrubs that grow on last year’s growth should be pruned after they bloom. Think azaleas, flowering plum and cherry trees, forsythia, lilac, and magnolia. If you prune now, you won’t see many flowers from them this year.
You should have already pruned fruit trees while they were dormant, in late winter/ early spring before the new growth starts to avoid disease.