When and why should I prune trees?

Pruning is an invaluable tool in the gardener’s armoury but timeliness is everything. I absolutely hammered the Hibiscus in my garden in December and look at it now, only 6 months later with most of the growing season to come. As Hibiscus flowers are borne off new season growth I will get over 10 times the amount of blooms in August compared to if I had left the tree unpruned over winter. In the autumn I also applied a tablespoon on white granulated sugar to the base of the tree so it could adsorb a nutrient loading meal to see it through the winter months and prepare it for its spring flush. On this evidence this has all worked rather well!

As a general rule prune deciduous trees when they are dormant and leafless in winter and prune evergreen trees just before they start to produce leaves in the spring.

Pruning can produce wonderful shapes to trees and tame a large tree to thrive within a small garden. Care has to be taken with fruiting trees as much of the next seasons flower bud can be removed if the tree is pruned in the winter. Disappointingly, no flower equals no fruit so beware! Pruning Apples, Pears and Plums is a bit of an art form, always try and leave some of last year’s wood on the tree as this holds the new season flower.

When I coppice my Corylus avellana Zellernus, Red Hazel, I take everything off above 10cm from ground level. I sacrifice the spring catkin display but the resultant growth makes up to 2 metres the following season with leaf size generally enhanced. When a tree is pruned at the right time the root is empowered to drive on vigorous top growth in an effort to make up with lost time.

Knowing the physiology of your tree and prune it at the right moment will lead to very satisfying results!


Posted by Mike Glover

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