Pruning Tips

pruningIt’s pruning season, right?  That depends on what we are talking about.

It IS the season to prune hardwood trees such as black walnut, red oak and white oak.  If you are ready to get out there and prune, but all means, get at it!  Here are some pruning tips:

  • Start at the top and work down. Assist the central leader by assuring its tip or apical bud is taller (higher) than any other leaders or branches that are competing for dominance. Totally remove or at least tip-prune any competitive leaders.
  • Remove no more than one-third of the tree canopy in any single year season. The key to a healthy root system is a healthy crown. If you remove too much of the tree’s ability to make food, root growth will suffer and set the stage for reduced crown growth the following year, that will lead to reduced root growth.
  • Do not prune flat to the stem. Instead, make an angled cut just outside of the branch collar (the donut-shaped growth surrounding the branches’ attachment to tree) so that the wound is about the same diameter as the branch. Do not leave stubs.

Crape Myrtle Trees – don’t murder them! 

The best time to prune Crape Myrtle trees is late winter, February – March.  The goal is to enhance the trees natural form, don’t force it to grow in a small space or prune it into an artificial shape. Crape myrtles naturally grow as small upright or vase shaped trees with multiple trunks. A well pruned crape myrtle will have the trunks grow upward and outward, with branches fanning out rather than growing inward into the center of the tree.

The wrong way to prune. A misconception that Crape Myrtles need to be severely cut back in late winter or early spring in order to flower well in summer has led to the unhealthy practice of topping these plants. If necessary, Crape Myrtles can be reduced in height without being topped.

Topping (buck horning or dehorning) or “crape murder” involves cutting stems back at an arbitrarily chosen height rather than pruning back to a bud, side branch, or main stem. Topping trees and shrubs is harmful in many ways and regarded as an unacceptable practice by trained horticulturists and arborists.   Research shows that stem decay significantly increases when topping cuts are made, and that more dead branches also occur within the canopy.  The trees are more prone to disease as well with topping.

Fruit Trees – NOT YET! 

WAIT…until the last hard freeze.  We need to wait until winter is almost over and spring is fast approaching. Since our average first frost-free day in Texas is around March 15, this month can be thought of as our early spring month. The best time to prune is late January through February.

Plants which bloom in early spring with the appearance of new leaves should be pruned after they flower. Those that bloom later in the spring or summer should be pruned during the dormant season in January or February.

Have any questions?  Let us know.  We are here to help.





December 2015


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