February is a great time to get outside and prune, as the energy is still stored in the plant's roots and one can study the visible branch structure. The weather is usually warmer as the winter teases us with thaws.
Always keep your tools clean and sharp to reduce stress and disease transmissions.
Sanitize your tools between cuts, especially when pruning diseased sections, with a 10% bleach solution or Lysol, which is less corrosive than bleach on your metal blades.
No more than a third is to be removed from the plant. Start with any dead or dying, diseased, or damaged branches.
Step back and study where you will be making your cuts, do not leave stubs and make your pruning cuts to an outside facing bud to direct the growing direction.
Always work safely and wear your protective eye wear. If you are taking on a pruning project out of your league please consider a professionally trained arborist.
Benefits of Pruning:
- Improves the shape, structure, allows light and air to penetrate into the interior
- Encourages new growth for flowering and therefore fruiting, especially on those plants that flower on new wood, such as Annabelle hydrangea, potentilla, and some spirea.
- Encourages the new wood that is colourful, for example Red-Twig dogwoods
- Corrective pruning can assist in managing wind and snow damage
Plants that should not be pruned at this time of year are lilacs, double flowering plum, nanking cherry, forsythia and some types of clematis, as they all develop their flower buds on previous years growth.
If these are pruned, you will be disappointed with the flower show in the spring. It is recommended that birches and maples not be pruned until early July when they are fully leafed out due to their high sap flow.
Elms are not to be pruned during the months of April to October to prevent the spread of Dutch Elm Disease.