Proper pruning is essential to improve how your plants grow, flower, fruit, resist disease, and how long they live. This information will explain the practical procedures for pruning a majority of your garden plants. For fruit trees, shade trees, and flowering trees follow these four basic rules:
- Remove all weak and diseased branches
- Remove all branches growing towards the center
- Remove the weakest of crossing branches
- Remove the weakest of parallel branches
You should remove all twigs and branches at the intersection with another branch with a clean cut leaving no stubs. You should seal all cuts over one inch in diameter with a pruning paste or spray.
Most of the fruit trees sold in our garden centre are two years old. Apples are grown on a dwarf root stock. Cherries, peaches, pears, plums, and pears are semi-dwarf. The main branches of these trees have already formed. Proper pruning will help you select the rest of the main branches over the next two to five years. When the leader branch reaches eight to nine feet it should be topped at a branch node to leave to top of the tree open. You should prune your fruit trees each year in winter or early spring, when the tree is dormant.
Apple Trees: Follow the four basic rules above
Pear Trees: They grow fairly vertical and attention must be paid to ensure that the center remains open
Peaches and Sour Cherries: These trees have fruit buds on new as well as old wood. Occasional thinning back to a strong lateral branch promotes vigor in these trees.
Sweet Cherries: Once the main branches are established a light thinning is all that the tree requires.
Flowering Trees: You should prune these trees similar to fruit trees but thin them lightly every year
Shade Trees: Every variety of tree has its own particular twig pattern and shape. You should thin the tree according to the four basic rules. Be sure to be conscious to maintain the original shape of the tree.
Shrubs that flower on OLD wood (ex. Forsythia, Spiraea, Weigela, etc). Most of the flowering shrubs in your garden are in this group. New shoots grow from the ground level each year. Flowers grow on two, three, and four-year old wood. You should prune these plants only after they have finished flowering. You should prune the oldest growth, more than four years old, off at the ground level.
- Remove weak and diseased branched
- Remove all shoots over four years old at the ground level
Shrubs that flower on NEW wood (ex. Roses, Buddleia, PeeGee Hydrangea, etc)
This group of plants produces flowers only on new wood. You should prune these plants in the spring (March or April) by heading back.
- Remove weak and diseased branches
- Remove branches growing towards the center
- Remove crossing branches
- Cut back all remaining branches to between 10 cm to 30 cm (4-12 inches)
Broad Leaf Evergreens: require very light pruning, primarily to improve their shape. These plants most often bloom on mature wood and you can prune them after they flower.
Conifers: every conifer has an individual shape; tall, medium, or dwarf; upright or spreading. Hand pruners are excellent for shortening the branches of dwarf evergreens and small shrubs. You should use shears, or a pruning saw for larger shrubs and trees. Pines should have their new shoots pruned in half in June.
Hedges should be pruned in spring. They should be pruned so that their tops are narrower than the bottom to let more sun and light into the lower parts of the hedge.
Raspberries: Prune in August, cutting out old canes at the ground level and newer canes to about 1.5 to 2 meters (5 to 6 feet)
Grapes: Select a main stem and prune lateral stems back to two buds in winter
Currants: These bloom and fruit on old wood. Prune out the oldest canes in winter.