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Timing is essential when pruning trees and flowers
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Winter is a great time to get outside to prune plants while they are in their dormant state.

But the key to successful pruning is knowing the pruning schedule for a particular 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 anytime of the year?

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

Falling into the January and February time frame include:

  • Woody ornamentals such as holly, nandina, gardenia and “Butterfly” bush.
  • Flowering shrubs such as roses, spirea, smoketree and clethra.
  • Flowering hydrangeas such as “oakleaf,” “Annabelle” and “PeeGee” in January.
  •  Muscadine and grape vines in February before they set their fruit. Specific techniques and practices involved with pruning need to be addressed to get optimal results.

Plants needing a trim in late March include:

  • Ornamental grasses such a pampas and fountain.
  • Liriope (monkey grass) and other low ornamental grasses.

Some people like the winter interest the grasses provide, but if not, safely shear them down.

Fruiting trees needing a pruning in late March are:

  • Fruiting trees such as fig, apple, peach and pecan as well as blueberry shrubs.

Since there are varying ways to prune fruiting trees, contact your local extension agent to ensure proper pruning.

Many fruiting plants need to be pruned immediately after planting while others need a more rigid and specified training method for optimal fruit production.

Other trees requiring a pruning during the dormant months are:

  • Focal trees such as maples, chaste tree (Vitex), crape myrtles and redbuds.

On the flip side, most evergreen trees require little pruning. But if a trim is needed, try a small trim along the outside of the branches to stimulate needle production. And remember to maintain its natural shape and look.

Plants to avoid pruning in the winter but need a trim after they bloom in the spring include:

  • Flowering sasanqua and japonica camellia bushes.
  • Azalea, quince, loropetalum, forsythia, viburnum and weigela.

A good rule of thumb is never prune a flowering plant until after it blooms.

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

Many other plants can be pruned in the dormant months, but were not mentioned. Therefore, if you have a question about a particular plant, call the extension office. We can let you know the optimal time for a pruning.

As always, many activities can be done in the garden in the winter months. Usually Georgia has some mild days to get out and get a few things done such as pruning. The plants will appreciate the upkeep and reward the gardener with beautiful foliage and flowers into the next growing season!

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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