This wonderful March weather Minnesota is experiencing has everyone itching to get out into their yards for a little spring cleaning. When it comes to pruning woody plants there are a few things to keep in mind. First, what can you prune at this time? At this time of year plants you can/should be pruning are Barberry, Dogwood, Alpine Currant, Potentilla, Roses, Ninebark, Weigela, Raspberry, and Grape.
Plants that bloom early in the spring (Forsythia, flowering cherries/plums/pears, Lilacs, Magnolia, Azalea, Redbuds, Rhododendron, etc.) should be pruned after they are done flowering. Often these plants will have already set their buds and pruning them now would decrease the amount of flowers seen this season. If it is necessary to prune these plants, or the loss of flowers does not matter, it will not harm them to be pruned.
Another thing to consider involves shade trees like Maples, Oaks, Elms, Ashes, and Linden/Basswood, among others. Spring is not the best time to be pruning these plants. With the warm weather and soil temperatures we are seeing, the insects and fungi responsible for many serious tree diseases are becoming active a little earlier. Every pruning cut is a wound to the tree and also creates an entrance point for insects or fungal spores to get into the tree’s inner tissues. These wounds should be avoided if possible in the spring and during any wet weather. The best time to prune would be late fall after leaf drop or during the winter. There are exceptions to the rules of course. For example, the last storm we had damaged a lot of the plants in our landscapes. Broken branches should be removed and the detachment points cleaned up to make it easier for the tree to heal itself. It may be necessary to use a pruning paint for some trees, such as Oaks, to seal the wound and prevent insects from transmitting potentially deadly diseases.
Pruning woody plants should always be done with care. Make sure to sanitize your tools to prevent spreading disease. This can be done with a solution of water and bleach or even with a Lysol-type spray. Also, see the pruning diagram below for the best place on the branch to cut.
Please stop by our stores! We are always willing to answer further questions! You can also refer to our Dundee Fact Sheets. If you want to know when to prune a specific plant, see our Pruning Guide – Timing Fact Sheet. For more on pruning see the Pruning Techniques Guide Fact Sheet.