Savvy gardeners use February and early March to examine limbs and branches of woody plants. This is the time of year to make pruning cuts to improve the scaffolding of the canopy of a tree or shrub. In the February to March timeline, before the buds begin to break, is the best time of the year to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Limbs in poor shape, crossing over, rubbing and such issues are best removed now, in February to mid-March. Proper pruning practices should be followed.
Prune small branches of less than 1 inch in diameter with pruning shears. Using clean, sharp tools is a good practice, as well. Remove heavy branches with a sharp limb saw by using the three–step method below:
Three-Step Pruning Guide:
Step 1. Make a slight undercut about a foot from the trunk and beyond the branch collar. (The branch collar is the swollen area on limb where the branch attaches to the trunk. It is much like the collar on a shirt.)
Step 2. Cut off most of the branch. Leave about 16-18 inches of branch as a stub.
Step 3. Cut off the remaining limb just beyond the branch collar.
• Evergreen trees and shrubs can generally be pruned any time of year.
• Azaleas and rhododendrons may be pruned just after bloom.
• Prune Crape Myrtles in February.
• Stop pruning all woody plants after August 15th. Why? Pruning is a stressor to plants and encourages new growth as a reaction to stress. Such new growth needs time to harden-off before winter.
Submitted by Kathryn Wimberley, McCracken County Agent for Horticulture/covering ANR