Winter Pruning: A Guide for Your Garden

While the winter chill is still in the air, it is time to prepare for your spring garden. A top priority on your list should be to prune your shrubs and trees before new growth and buds come to life. This is important to do in late winter or early spring because trees and shrubs are in a state of dormancy. Dormancy protects the plants from cold temperatures and helps the plant focus energy on new spring growth. So when you start the pruning process, your trees and shrubs will actually be encouraged to grow.

What is Pruning?

Pruning is simply the cutting back of old, dead, diseased, or unwanted limbs or branches of a tree or shrub. This process allows you to shape your plants before new growth happens. If there is a hole in a shrub or hedge you would like to fill, you can actually prune the area surrounding the hole to encourage new growth in that bare spot.

Tree Pruning

When pruning your trees in late winter focus on removing branches that have been damaged by harsh winter winds, ice, or heavy snows. These weak, damaged branches are more likely to break apart or tear off the tree if not removed. This could cause lasting damage to your tree. So go ahead and just remove them.

To prune your trees correctly, cut close to the trunk but not right against it – leave a few inches. Then, carefully remove the damaged branch. Make a small undercut and then slice down from above to meet the first cut. This method will ensure the bark does not tear. 

Wondering what trees need to be pruned? Here are a few to note…

  • Evergreens (spruce, fir)
  • Oak
  • Sweetgum
  • Maple
  • Katsura 
  • Hornbeam
  • Dogwoods

Pro Tip: If your trees are young, they need to be pruned earlier. This will help them grow more branches from the base of the tree.

Shrub Pruning

Pruning shrubs and hedges also help them develop and grow. The goal is to thin out old wood and remove branches so new ones can grow in. First, you want to start with branches near the ground, these can cause damage to nearby concrete walkways, be a tripping hazard, or even interfere with your house. Start there and get rid of those! Then, you can work your way up towards the top.

Make sure to never cut your shrubs or hedges in a horizontal line. This will lead to a thinning of the plants. You want to make cuts here and there, cutting some branches back hard and leaving healthy ones to grow and flourish.

Pro Tip: If your shrubs flower or bloom, you will want to wait to prune those until spring or summer.

How to Prune

  1. Gather clean, sharp tools
  2. Make precise cuts… all cuts should go back to a bud, branch, or the main trunk.
  3. Paint all cuts over 1″ to 2″ in diameter with a protective paint
  4. Disinfect tools after each cut on diseased plant… an alcohol-based disinfectant will work.

Voila! Repeat this process throughout your garden and then your trees and shrubs will be ready for springtime. When you’re done pruning, go ahead and mist Ultra® onto your freshly groomed plants. Ultra® is our organic prebiotic which helps maximize growth and production in the soil, seed, roots, and plant foliage.  This will lead to strong, healthy buds and new growth when the spring arrives.

Free shipping always.

SOURCES: Cole, Trevor. "Spring Crop: Unsure about what to Prune Back Now?" Canadian Gardening, vol. 15, no. 2, 04, 2004, pp. 62-65. Donald Wyman. “PRUNING ORNAMENTAL SHRUBS AND TREES.” Arnoldia. 23.8 (1963): 107–110. Print. Old Farmer's Almanac. “Winter Pruning Guide for Trees and Shrubs.” Old Farmer's Almanac.