Sunday, December 22, 2019 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Brian Jervis: Ask A Master Gardener
Sunday, December 22, 2019
Q: I need to do some trimming and pruning on our trees and shrubs. Is now a good time to do that? MA
A: Pruning and trimming is an important part of keeping our trees and shrubs healthy as long as you know when to prune and how. It can also be a little tricky because now is the perfect time for some plants and not so great for others. Here are some general tips to help.
We prune for a variety of reasons: training and shaping the plant, thinning for better air circulation and health, removal of dead branches, stimulating new growth or flowers, or to keep plants away from our homes or other structures.
One thing to remember is to never remove more than about a third of the branches. If you do a good job pruning, your work will not be noticeable. It will look natural and not like you were trimming with a vengeance. This un-natural manner of trimming can be seen all over town in what we gardeners call “crape murder” (the over-aggressive trimming of crape myrtles you see in the photo and all over town).
Here are some general rules on when to prune.
Flowering trees, shrubs and vines typically should not be pruned in the winter as many of these set the flower buds for the next year in the summer. Most hydrangeas fall into this category (except the Oak Leaf variety). If you have not been getting flowers on your hydrangeas, have you been cutting back those dead-looking stems in the fall or winter? They can be a little unsightly, but the best time to prune these is after their blooming burst in the spring so they will have time to set buds for the following year. Other shrubs that fall into this category are flowering quince, forsythia, viburnum and wisteria.
Another group is the summer-flowering varieties, such as abelia, butterfly bush or Rose of Sharon. These should be pruned in the fall or early spring.
There is also a category of broadleaf evergreen plants like acuba, camellia, boxwood, cherry laurel, holly, mahonia, nandina and photinia. These are best pruned in the spring before new growth begins.
Tree trimming and pruning is typically best left to trained professionals. I know, a lot of us consider ourselves chain-saw warriors, but there is a difference between cutting up a branch that fell to the ground and successfully cutting that several hundred-pound branch off a tree. Typically, this type of work is better left in the hands of a trained arborist. Tulsa is fortunate to have several arborists to from which to choose. To find a good arborist, we suggest you visit This is the national database of arborists. Their website will help you find a local licensed arborist who will meet your needs.
We have an extensive list of different varieties of how to trim on our website. We also have a video on how to plants that include recommendations on when and properly trim crape myrtles. You can find this and more information on our website,, by clicking the “Hot Topics” button on the home page. Good luck and stay safe.
Garden tips
·        All birds need and appreciate clean feeders and unfrozen water on cold days. Place feeders close to protective shelter, if possible.
·        Be sure to keep your Christmas tree watered to keep if from drying out.
·        Light prunings of evergreens can be used for holiday decorations. Be careful with sap that can mar surfaces.
·        Newly seeded fescue will continue to grow roots and make energy if you keep them free of leaves.


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