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Pruning Tips
By Kristopher Wulff, Master Gardener


Late winter or early spring before growth begins is the best time to prune woody landscape plants or trees. With deciduous plants it is easier to see the framework of the plant while the leaves are off. Pruning wounds tend to heal quickly in the early spring. Insect and disease activity is low so there is less chance of disease or insect infestation. Pruning at the wrong time of the year will not kill the plant but repeated improper pruning can damage or cause stress to plants and trees. Stressed plants and trees are more susceptible to fungal, bacterial or insect damage. So, pruning should be done when the results are optimal for plant growth. Optimal times will vary according to weather conditions. Heavy and prolonged cold snaps will damage newly pruned trees, shrubs and plants. This is called ‘winter kill’. ‘Winter kill’ can be avoided by pruning later in winter thus avoiding the cold snaps common in the Midwest.

Plants and ornamental trees which benefit from late winter/early spring pruning: