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Precise pruning of plants
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After the holidays is a great time to get out in the landscape and think about pruning plants.

Many of our ornamental shrubs, focal trees, fruiting trees and vines, flowering plants and grasses are pruned in January and February.

The key to successful pruning is to know the plant. Do the buds and flowers produce on new or old wood? Can a plant take a severe pruning and recover in the warmer seasons? Can you prune out dead and diseased stems and branches any time of the year?

Most of your woody ornamental shrubs such as holly, nandina, gardenia, butterfly bush and crape myrtle can be pruned in January and February. Avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, azalea, quince and witch hazel until after they bloom, usually starting in April to May.

Focal trees such as maples, Carolina Silverbell and redbuds can be pruned during their dormant months.

Most evergreen trees require little pruning, but if you must, do a small trim along the outside of the branches to stimulate needle production. With evergreens, you want to maintain their natural shape and look.

Fruiting trees such as apple, peach and pecan need pruning. Muscadine and grape vines should be pruned in February before they set their fruit for the season. In the case of fig and blueberry plants, it is important to prune at the proper time.

But all fruiting plants should be pruned at the proper time and in a specific way. Some plants should be pruned immediately after planting. Others require a rigid and specified pruning method for optimal production.

Flowering shrubs such as roses, summer blooming hydrangeas, spirea, smoketree and clethra can be pruned in January and February. Wait a little later into April to prune flowering camellia bushes. Wait even a little longer to prune viburnums and wiegela until after they bloom.

A good rule of thumb is never prune a flowering plant until after it blooms. So most spring flowering plants need to wait for pruning.

Ornamental grasses such a pampas and fountain grass can be cut down in late winter. Some people like the winter interest the grasses provide, but if not, you can safely shear them in the winter months. Mow down liriope or other low ornamental grasses in late winter.

Pruning can be done anytime on diseased limbs and branches or dieback. Always use clean shears and disinfect the shears if possible between cuts. Make pruning cuts well below the diseased wood and discard all affected parts.

Many other plants were not discussed, but if you have a question on the timing of pruning particular plants, call at the UGA Cooperative Extension office. It is very important to know what type of tree or plant you have and when to prune it. We can let you know the facts.

As always, many activities can be done in the garden in the winter. Usually we have some mild days to get out and get a few things done. The plants will appreciate their upkeep and reward the owner with beautiful foliage and flowers the next growing season!

Happy New Year!

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or Her column appears biweekly and on

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