1. Late Winter Pruning Guide for a Beautiful Yardscape

JANUARY 25 2021 / LAWN

Late Winter Pruning Guide for a Beautiful Yardscape

Late winter is the best time to prune most shrubs and trees. It’s during these months that most of the plants in our area go dormant, with little to no plant growth. Pruning at this time helps prepare plants for the year ahead, so they can focus their energy on healthy growth. Another benefit to winter pruning is that the lack of leaves allows us to more easily identify branches and limbs requiring trimming or outright removal.

While many of the plants in our yards are best pruned in January and February, we should note that some, especially flowering trees and shrubs, may be on a different calendar (see below for details). But no matter the time of year they require trimming, it’s a critical task to undertake. 

So, the lawn care professionals at Waynes put together the following primer to provide general insight into how and where you should prune. Doing so with care helps ensure a beautiful and healthy yardscape for the year to come and many thereafter. 

Why Not Just Let Nature Take Its Course? 

As we noted above, pruning helps create healthier plants, but how? Especially when it comes to trees, removing dead or diseased branches, as well as those limbs that are simply competing for space, opens up the canopy to let light and air filter throughout the entire tree. Such thinning directs the growth of the tree and, if you choose, allows more sunlight to reach your grass, thereby creating a lusher lawn. 

There’s also a safety component to pruning trees. Not only are you bringing down diseased or dead branches before nature does (and sends the wayward limbs crashing against a house or fence), but you’re also helping the tree itself grow stronger and more resistant to wind damage. 

Cold-Weather Pruning Tips You Must Know

Like with any skill, start with the basics. Here are a few general pruning tips that will apply to most -- if not all -- of your trees and shrubs. 

  1. Make sure it’s not too cold or too wet. Pruning on a mild and dry day not only provides a pleasant workspace, but it helps keep your plants from becoming exposed to waterborne diseases or being damaged by frigid temperatures.
  2. Prune the dead spots first. It’s common for a few branches not to survive. These are a must-go, both for the health and visual appeal of the tree.  
  3. Remove any overgrown or undersized branches that aren’t contributing to the shape of the tree.
  4. Be careful! Not only will you be using sharp tools, you may also be using them to cut above your head. That said, take care to study how a branch might fall, so it doesn’t, you know, come crashing down on you. 
  5. Lastly, while pruning is as much an art as a science, there are both learned skills and personal preferences that play into the job – certainly more than we can cover in this space. That said, we encourage you to research a little further based on specific plant varieties and their pruning needs. 

Pruning Flowering Shrubs and Trees

When to prune your flowering shrubs and trees depends largely on whether blooms are on last year’s growth or new growth. If the former and you trim branches in winter, you’ll eliminate the flowers for the year. Instead, prune right after the plant finishes blooming. Early blooming trees and shrubs include certain varieties of the following:

  • Azalea  
  • Flowering crabapple 
  • Forsythia 
  • Hydrangea, bigleaf* 
  • Magnolia 
  • Mountain laurel 
  • Rhododendron 

A few examples of flowering shrubs that need pruning in late winter include:

  • Butterfly bushes
  • Crape myrtles
  • Deciduous holly 
  • Dogwood 
  • Hydrangeas, smooth leaf*
  • Roses
  • Wisteria 

Pruning these flowering plants before they start to bloom encourages lots of new and healthy flower growth come spring and summer. 

*Note: Different types of hydrangeas may have specific guidelines for how to prune. For more information on pruning your hydrangea, check out this resource

Pruning Non-Flowering Trees and Evergreens

Like those that flower, not all non-flowering trees and evergreens need pruning in late winter. Some of the plants that do need trimming around this time include:

  • Evergreen shrubs (such as holly and boxwood)
  • Evergreen trees (spruce and fir)
  • Oak trees
  • Maple trees
  • Katsura trees
  • Sweetgum trees

While dead, broken, and diseased branches can be removed year-round, trimming unwanted branches to promote healthy growth is best done before spring for these varieties.

Nurturing Your Yardscape

Tending to trees and shrubs is a great way to provide character and depth to your lawn. Another important component of your landscape to consider is a lush carpet of green grass. That’s where Waynes comes in!

Our Service Professionals can create a “Barefoot Good” yard, perfect for warmer weather and all of its wondrous activities. Contact Waynes via email to get a free estimate, or give us a call at 866-WAYNES1.