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NOW is the time for Dormant Pruning

February 24, 2017

NOW is the time for Dormant Pruning

Like most people, you are probably thinking, “What in the world is ‘dormant pruning?’”  Dormant pruning is the practice of pruning shrubs in late winter while the plants are still dormant, before the plant buds have begun to swell and open.  There are many benefits to this type of pruning and most deciduous shrubs respond well.  Deciduous plants are trees and shrubs that lose their leaves in the fall and winter seasons.

One benefit to dormant pruning is that the framework of the plant is visible because the leaves are not present.  This makes reshaping and removing dead or rubbing branches easier.  Other benefits are that dormant pruning puts less stress on the plant, the pruning cuts heal faster, and there is less likelihood of transmitting disease within the plant or to another plant.  The best reason to use this pruning practice is that it helps overgrown shrubs create new growth from the base. 

Start by removing any crossing or rubbing stems, those growing in awkward directions or anytime there are two branches growing parallel to each other.  We recommend that each year for three years, you remove about one third of the old stems at ground level.  Another good practice is to avoid cutting into any branches that are thicker than your pinky finger.  Something to keep in mind is that shrubs that flower in the spring have already set their flower buds.  Therefore, if you dormant prune them, you will sacrifice the flower show for the upcoming spring.  You may choose to do so anyway, if you feel the plant could really benefit from the renewal.  If the plant blooms in the summer or fall, you will not affect the flowering by pruning now. 

Also, dormant pruning is a hand-pruning technique whereby one branch at a time is removed.  This is not to be confused with shearing.  Whereby the entire planted is trimmed to a uniform height. We generally discourage this practice.  Shearing causes the plant to only grow from the outer tips. Over time sunlight cannot reach the interior of the plant.  Ultimately, shearing may be why the plant needs rejuvenation pruning in the first place.  It causes the plant to lose vigor and grow in a misshapen manner.

If you have some deciduous shrubs that lack vigor, appear misshapen, or have outgrown their location, they may benefit from dormant pruning.  Our LandKeeping™ Division provides dormant pruning as part of an annual maintenance program, custom-designed to keep your property looking its best.  For more information about LandKeeping™, contact Kent Sholder, Senior Landscape Sales Professional, at 937/ 847-8000.

Some examples of expertly-pruned and maintained shrubs by Grunder below: