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What Not to Prune

By Paul James

Pruning is confusing. I’ll grant you that. But generally speaking, if you remember to prune deciduous trees and shrubs during their winter dormancy and evergreens in early spring, then you should be good. Of course, there are exceptions, because in the world of plants — THERE ARE ALWAYS EXCEPTIONS! And here they are.

First and foremost, remember this: Trees and shrubs that bloom in spring should not be pruned until after they bloom. That’s because the flower buds on spring bloomers were actually formed on last year’s growth, or what gardening geeks refer to as “old wood,” which means that if you prune while the plant is dormant, you’ll remove those buds. So hold off pruning these plants.

Of course, you can and should go ahead and prune dead or diseased wood and crossing branches, but that’s about it.

And what about Hydrangeas? Yeah, I knew you were going to ask me that. Well, they’re tricky, because some bloom on old wood, some on new wood, and some on both, which is why I’m saving that whole discussion for a future post. In the meantime, don’t prune them.

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Andy Hale
Andy Hale

Why didn’t I all my different Hydrangea types cataloged so I would know if blooming on Old or New Wood? Maybe you will help us understand by looking or observing next year’s blooms? My azaleas are easy to do before it gets so hot after they bloom.Paul, could you do an article on Mulching leaves which seems simple but I see all my neighbors spending either time or money having leaves removed and since heard your presentation on overseeding couple of years ago I just mulch on highest setting. However, I have to mow once a week just to stay… Read more »


I guess that yaupon holly is on the do not prune list?