Cold Weather Pruning

This holly needs pruning again even thought it was pruned in late summer.

See where the cut was in summer. That is where the new shoot appeared. This is why tip pruning is not a good pruning method.

One of the rubbing branches needs to be removed, even if they are very large.

The expected cold weather will hopefully stop many of our deciduous shrubs from budding out. However, the cooler weather is the perfect time to prune trees, cut back evergreens, and shape evergreens. With our extended warm season last fall, many of our evergreens, like the dwarf Buford holly shown in the image above, need pruning again. Note where the branches were cut right at the tip of the shape of the plant. The only way to reduce pruning of vigorous growing evergreens is to chase each shoot to its point of origin and cut it there. Oftentimes that is deep into the plant. Tip pruning is shearing, not controlling the wayward shoots on many of our common evergreens. In the case of junipers and other coniferous evergreens, a whole different set of procedures is used. Many of these really do not need to be pruned except to remove awkward shoots or too reduce the overall size of the plant, which means severe cutting or removing if it is too big for the space. Try to make the cuts where they will not show, and the plant will be more attractive.
Rubbing and crossing limbs need to be removed at their point of origin on the trees and shrubs. When I approach any plant that needs pruning, this is the first cut I make. Removing these types of limbs generally helps you determine what else, if anything, needs to be done to the plant. Remember if the limbs are large and need to be removed with the saw, do an undercut on the limb that need to be removed first to keep the top cut from tearing the bark before the cut is finished. So cold days are perfect pruning days, and the next few days the weather is going to be right for this gardening chore.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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