Deciduous trees give landscapers clear signs when it’s time to prune. Leaves fall, trunks go dormant, and the bare branches show precisely where each cut is needed. The cool weather in January and February creates the ideal pruning conditions for shade and ornamental trees, allowing them to recuperate and revitalize before spring growth. Pruning evergreens is trickier. The foliage remains verdant and the branches stay sturdy through the chill of winter and our hot, humid summer weather. But pruning evergreens is necessary to plant health and landscape aesthetics.
When to Prune Evergreens
Because evergreens require limited shaping, most landscapers only prune them to remove dead, injured, or diseased branches. Corrective pruning takes place year-round, because it protects the body of the tree from further damage. Most landscape professionals thin evergreen branches in late winter to promote spring growth. Research your variety of evergreen for ideal pruning times. If possible, avoid pruning evergreen trees and shrubs in late summer and early fall. Newly revitalized branches are more susceptible to sudden shifts in temperatures and may fall be damaged by early frosts.
How to Prune Evergreens
Unlike their deciduous counterparts, evergreen trees need little guidance. Most evergreen pruning is routine maintenance or removal of injured and diseased branches. Because evergreens do not regenerate lost limbs like deciduous trees do, it’s better to err on the side of under-pruning coniferous trees. Pine, spruce, and fir trees require limited pruning, while evergreen shrubs may need yearly thinning. When pruning evergreens, remember:
- Different evergreens require pruning during different seasons; research the pruning schedule of your tree or shrub before beginning
- Use sharp pruning shears to prevent injuring trees and shrubs
- Prune lightly
- Remove select branches entirely (generally the oldest branches) instead of trimming parts off many branches
- When making major structural changes, prune back evergreens over the course of several years instead of in a single season
For more information on seasonal tree care, planting and maintaining evergreens, and planning spring landscapes, call your Alabama horticulture professionals 3am Growers.