Plants grow, propagate, survive insects, disease, drought, damage, and decline until they ultimately die. To obtain the best results and assist the plant to prosper humans often feel it is necessary to interfere with the natural process. He will feed, spray, water, mulch and otherwise coddle his plants. However, sometimes it becomes necessary for him to deliberately do what appears to be bodily harm to his plants. If this is done correctly using the proper techniques and timing it can enhance the beauty, health, and extend the life span of the plant. This procedure is called Pruning. This article will briefly describe what to do and when for some of the common plants found in the Tulsa County area.
-- Ed Lee
Abelia The best flowers are produced on new growth. In spring prune lightly by thining out unwanted branches to maintain desired shape. Cut 1/3 of old, grayish stems back to ground each fall or winter to give open arching branch look. Pinch tips to maintain height. Shearing as hedge sacrifices some flowers and natural shape.
Alyssum Shear off flower heads after blooming. May re-bloom in fall. Keeps plants neat and dense.
Ajuga Remove faded flowers. Cut back runnes to keep from creeping too far. Replant every 3 to 4 years.
Arborvitae (Thuja, Platycladus) Can stand heavy shearing. Shape in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Make cuts so they are concealed by surrounding foliage (cuts into stem area without needles will not produce new growth). Prune again in summer as needed to control size and shape.
Artemesia (Artemisia absinthium) Flowers on new wood. Prune hard late winter, early spring.
Artichoke After last artichoke and slight dieback, Cut the stem or stalk back to base.
Asparagus Harvest spears in spring by cutting with a sharp knife just below the soil line. In the fall cut the stalks to the ground as soon as they turn yellow. Remove from area otherwise the red berries will mature and scatter seeds which will germinate and crowd the established plants hurting production.
Aster Prune A.frikartii to remove faded flowers to prolong blooming season. To control size cut back to 1/2 of it's height in late spring or early summer.
Michalmas daisy (A.novae-angliae, A.novi-belgii) can be pinched when young to induce branching, then cut back hard for a smaller, bushier plant with more flowers. After blooming remove faded flowers and cut back hard to prevent seeding. Some varieties may re-bloom. These plants should be divided every 1-2 years, in the spring, to maintain vigor.
Astilbe Cut spent flowers. Flower on new wood. Prune late winter-early spring while dormant.
Aucuba Prune as often as needed. Shorten plant by cutting back to a pair of buds or to just above a leaf joint.
Azalea (Rhododendren) Pinch or clip to maintain shape immediately after blooming. To rejuvenate, cut back 1/3 of oldest limbs to a foot or less each year. Remove old, weak limbs entirely.
Barberry For evergreen varieties that flower in the spring to early summer, lightly cut back shoots that ruin symmetry after flowering. Remove dead or damaged growth in mid-spring after flowering. Keep them deadheaded unless fruit is desired.
For deciduous varieties cut back flowered shoots to strong buds or young growth near the base of plant. On older plants cut back approximately 1/4 of older shoots to the base to promote growth.
Begonia Susceptible to stem rot. When flowers are cut leave about an inch of flower stem on plants. Stub will cure and fall off naturally. Faded flowers and leaves can also cause rot and should be removed. Pinch out growing tips to encourage branching. Keep plants compact.
Birch (Betula) Tree forms multiple branches of equal size at same point. When training young tree remove all but one of these shoots to develop strong framework. Thin out crowded growth and do major pruning in winter since tree is a bleeder. May remove lower branches to expose attractive bark. Mature trees require little or no pruning except for weak or damaged wood.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) Cut plant down to ground after it finishes blooming in fall before it goes to seed. Remove spent flowers before seeding.
Blackberry In the fall, soon after the last berry harvest, cut the canes that produced fruit this year and small weak canes to the ground. Dig out unwanted sprouts. Tip prune 5-6 inches of remaining canes in the winter. Burn or remove from premises old canes that may harbor diseases.
Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus) Prune only to control or direct growth. Minor pruning throught season. Radical pruning in late winter/early spring.
Boxwood (Buxus) Sprouts easily from old wood. Can be cut back and sheared heavily anytime during growing season. Cut dead branches back to live wood.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) B.alternifolia blooms on previous season's wood. Cut back spent flowering branches to strong shoot or young growth. Do not shear. To encourage growth remove some of the oldest canes to the lowest two buds or about four inches from the ground after flowering.
B.davidii blooms on new wood. Cut to ground in spring after danger of frost is past.
Canna A tuberous rootstock. After first frost, cut off all leaf stalks, dig up rootstalks and store.
Carolina Jessamine (Geisemium sempervirens) Flowers on old wood. Head back lateral shoots, remove dead stems and prune to shape after flowering ends.
Caryopetris Blooms on new wood. Cut to ground in spring after danger of frost is past.
Catalpa Train to single trunk. Eliminate weak branch angles. Do major pruning during dormant season.
Catnip, Catmint (Nepeta) Shear after blooming to keep plants compact and to encourage another blooming.
Cedars (Cedrus) To limit size head back to a live bud or another limb. For bushy plant, cut new shoots by half in spring. Remove deadwood. Wounds heal slowly.
Cherry, Flowering (Prunus) Prune in late winter to early spring to retain fruits. Remove suckers and water sprouts. Use of dirty tools spreads disease.
Chokeberry (Aronia) Prune to encourage branching while young. Prune to shape after berries have dropped.
Chrysanthemum For fall blooming common garden variety mums, pinch back tips regularly until mid to late August for sturdy, bushy plants. Stake if required. Then, for large flowers pinch all buds except one or two in each cluster. For masses of flowers leave the buds alone.
Clematis These vines are normally divided into three groups, spring flowering, those that flower in the spring and later in the summer, and summer flowering.
Spring flowering clematis flower on wood formed the previous season. They are pruned immediately after flowering. Remove dead or damaged stems and shorten others to allow next years wood room to develop.
Spring and later in the summer flowering clematis bloom on side shoots from previous years growth and then later in the summer at the tips of the current years shoots. In the fall or early spring remove dead, damaged or unruly stems before growth begins; cut remaining stems back to a strong bud. Deadhead flowers all year.
Summer flowering clematis bloom on current years growth. In fall or early spring cut to within 6-8 inches of the ground or to 2-3 buds for the first two or three years. Cut older plants to less than two feet.
For all types. If you want a low plant with maximum blooms, prune just above the first joint of the previous seasons growth. For taller vines, train the first leader to the height desired and then cut back the side branches each year. Always leave one joint of the previous years growth on side branches.
Clethra Flowers on new wood. Remove suckers. To renew, cut weak wood to ground in late winter.
Coreopsis Deadhead old flowers. Cut perennial types back to ground in fall after they have finished blooming.
Crabapple (Malus) Prune in late winter to early spring to retain fruits. Remove suckers and water sprouts. Use of dirty tools spreads disease.
Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) Blooms on current season's growth. To promote flower production prune heavily after leaves fall, preferably in late winter-early spring.
For large shrub or tree form cut back to 1 to 1 1/2 foot from tip. Remove whole branches to shape, cut suckers and deadhead flower clusters.
For the dwarf form prune out twiggy growth. Deadhead.
Cypress (Cupressus) Do not cut back into area without leaves. Head back branch tips to encourage dense growth.
Daylily (Hemerocallis) Snap off faded flowers daily. Cut back severely after bloom to stimulate new growth. Remove dead foliage in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.
Dogwoods (Cornus) Needs little or no pruning. Prune after flowering or to preserve fruits prune in spring.
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) Blooms early spring. Prune after flowering ends. Needs little pruning.
False Cypress (Chamaechparis) Does not produce new growth on old wood. Head back to another branch or a live bud. Tolerate shearing.
False Spirea (Sorbaria) Flower on new wood. Prune late winter-early spring while dormant.
Firs (Abies) Minimal pruning in early spring or as new growth emerges. Head unwanted, damaged, dead or weak branches back to a lateral (don't cut back into leafless wood or the whole branch may die). Don't cut leader to reduce height.
Fothergilla Blooms on old wood. Prune as needed after flowering.
Forsythia Allow a new plant to grow a few years to reach desired height. Then remove 1/3 of the stems after they have finished blooming each year. Cut weak or crowded growth. Remove all woody growth to the ground. Do not head back. This causes a witches broom effect. Old, overgrown shrubs can be cut back to 6 inches from the ground in early spring.
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) Perennial herb can be cut back after blooming. Use leaves (fresh or dry) as seasoning.
Gaura The Gaura blossoms are self pruning. Cut off all seed spikes.
Goldenrain tree (Koelreuteria) Train to single or multiple trunks.
Goldenrod (Solidago) Deadhead to prevent seeding.
Hibiscus, Perennial/Hardy, Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) Each fall after flowering cut plant to within 3 inches of ground.
Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Shrub Althaea (Hibiscus syriacus) Light pruning to shape. For larger flowers cut back last season's growth to 2 buds in winter.
Holly (Ilex) All types can be pruned heavily at any time of year. Prune branches that droop to touch ground to prevent rooting.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) Prune late winter to early spring to control growth. Remove weak shoots. Head back long stems. Renew by cutting a third of oldest stems to ground.
Hosta (Hosta species) Go dormant in winter. Shear leaves after they turn brown. Remove old flower stalks.
Hydrangea For "lace cap" hydrangeas (flowers form around edge of head) remove flowers as soon as they have bloomed to keep them from going to seed. Cut the stems just above a bud or pair of buds beneath each flowerhead.
H.macrophylla. Prune heavily as flowers fade. Cut stems back to strong laterals or buds. In early spring remove damaged wood and 1/3 of oldest flowered shoots to the ground.
H.paniculata 'Grandifolora' (Pee gee) Can be pruned as a hedge or as a standard tree. For large flowers head back year-old wood to 3 or 4 spurs. For tree form cut back to 2 or 3 growth buds on selected branches.
H.quercifolia (Oakleaf) For a small shrub prune to ground each spring. For other shapes thin and shape as desired in the spring.
Itea Blooms on old wood. Prune after flowering. Needs little pruning. Root prune to control spread.
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) Easy to shape into form and size desired. Cut out branches that head in wrong direction. Snip out branches to give planed, layered branches. Keep low by heading back branches that tend to grow upright. At maturity, after training, very little pruning except to remove damaged, dead, weak or interfering wood. Bleed profusely so do not prune in spring or during most active growth.
Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora) Prune late summer-early fall. Wounds sap heavly, do not prune in spring.
Jujuba, Chinese (Ziziphus jujuba) Prune to encourage weeping habit. To preserve fruit prune late winter.
Juniper, Red Cedar (Juniperus) Pinch stems or head back to another branch to limit size and encourage bushy growth. Prune anytime (spring best). Pruning into mature wood may not produce new foliage.
Kerria Blooms on old wood. Remove oldest woody stems after flowering to promote vigor.
Lavender (Lavandula) Prune to shape and remove unattractive branches. Cut flowers just before opening for best aromatic properties. Harvest leaves anytime. Prune back heavily in fall.
Lilac (Syringa) Blooms on previous years growth. Prune young plants by pinching and shaping. Deadhead flower clusters just above points where pairs of flower buds are forming (where leaves join stem). Heavy pruning will remove next year's blooms. Remove suckers at ground level if on grafted root system. For bush growth prune in spring with resulting flower loss.
For older plant renovation remove 1/3 of the older wood each spring if it is on a grafted root system. If it is on it's own root system then they can be cut back hard to 1 1/2 to 2 feet in late winter. This drastic removal will result in the loss of all blooms for the ensuing growing season. It will normally take a complete growing season for the wood to mature enough to again bloom.
Loropetalum Blooms on previous or current years growth in late winter or early spring. Needs minimal pruning. Deadhead regularly. Trim lightly to maintain symmetry. Remove dead or damaged growth in midspring (after flowering).
Maples (Acer) At maturity, after training, very little pruning except to remove damaged, dead, weak or interfering wood. Bleed profusely so do not prune in spring or during most active growth.
Magnolia Little pruning needed. Magnolia wood brittle and slow to heal.
Mandevilla (Mandevilla) Flower on old wood. Little or no pruning necessary.
Marjoram, Oregano (Origanum) Cut back old flowered stems in spring.
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) Blooms continuously on new wood. Cut old stems to ground.
Mimosa (Albizia) Train to multiple trunks. Prune in early spring.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus) Blooms on previous season's wood. Cut back spent flowering branches to strong shoot or young growth. Do not shear. To encourage growth remove some of the oldest canes to the lowest two buds or about four inches from the ground after flowering.
Morning Glory (Ipomoea) Flower on new wood. Cut vines to the ground in late winter/early spring.
Nandina In spring cut back shoots to shape plant. Lightly trim as needed to maintain size and shape.
Oleander (Nerium) Prune early spring to control size. Renew by removing oldest canes. Warning Oleander leaves and stems are toxic, even when burned. Handle and dispose with care.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia) Flowers on old wood. Little pruning needed. Cut old, woody shoots to ground to renew.
Ornamental Grasses such as Pennisetum, Calamagrotis, Ophiopogon, Lirope, etc. Cut back dead top growth by early spring before new growth begins.
Pear, Flowering (Pyrus) Need minimal pruning after training in late winter or early spring when dormant.
Peony (Paeonia) Herbaceous peonies - Deadhead. In fall after foliage browns out, cut just below soil line. Do not harm new bud eyes below ground level.
Tree peonies - Deadhead above topmost leaf. Very early spring remove winter damaged stems and cut all stems to top healthy live eye or bud. Remove diseased flowers, buds, and stems by cutting back to healthy stems at any time. Use sterile utensils.
Phlox Cut back all tall herbaceous species to ground in the fall. Deadhead.
Photinia A fast grower that will get out of hand real fast. Pinch and lightly prune 4-5 times a year to encourage spreading and dense growth. Cut tips back once a month in late spring and early summer to prolong the scarlet color. Thin and top as required.
Pieris Flowers in spring on old wood. Prune after flowering. Needs minor pruning.
Pines (Pinus) Prune when new needles reach half of length of old needles in spring. To slow growth and encourage dense plants cut candles by one-half. To control size pinch out central candle to stop growth. Remove entire limbs do not cut back into old wood.
Plum, Flowering (Prunus) Prune in late winter to early spring to retain fruits. Remove suckers and water sprouts. Use of dirty tools spreads disease.
Potentilla Blooms on new wood. Prune in late winter-early spring. Remove a third of the oldest stems to ground.
Privet (Ligustrum) Prune as required during growing season to maintain desired effect.
Pussy Willow (Salix) Flower on old wood. Prune after flowering. For long stems and many catkens, cut a good portion of stems to six inches every year.
Pyracantha Flowers on year old wood. Prune lightly in late winter-early spring to preserve berries. Prune after flowring to encourage branching by heading back new growth just beyond the berry clusters.
Quinces (Chaenomeles) Blooms on old wood. Prune after flowering. Cut oldest stems to ground. Cut to six inches to renew.
Raspberry In the fall, soon after the last berry harvest, cut the canes that produced fruit this year and small weak canes to the ground. Dig out unwanted sprouts. Tip prune 5-6 inches of remaining canes in the winter. Burn or remove from premises old canes that may harbor diseases.
Red Cedar, Juniper (Juniperus) Pinch stems or head back to another branch to limit size and encourage bushy growth. Prune anytime (spring best). Pruning into mature wood may not produce new foliage.
Red-twig, Red-osier, Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera or alba) Cut plants to ground in late winter to enhance stem color and control twig blight. Root prune to control spread.
Rhododendren Pinch to maintain shape immediately after blooming. Cuts should always be made just above a leaf rosette or if necessary above the growth bud under the bark. Remove faded flower trusses before seed pods form. To rejuvenate, cut back 1/3 of oldest limbs to a foot or less (above a growth bud) each year. Remove old, weak limbs entirely.
Rhubarb In the spring, harvest by twisting each stalk and gently pulling it from the root without leaving a stub. In the fall pull off dead leaves. Divide healthy plants every 7-8 years.
Rose (Rosa) Generally rose growers prefer a light to moderate pruning near the end of the dormant period when growth buds begin to swell but not so early that the subsequent new growth will be damaged by a late frost.
Bush roses Remove all weak, twiggy branches or damaged wood. Open the center by removing branches that cross through the center. Remove 1/3 of last season's new growth. Make cuts 1/4 inch above a leaf bud at a 45 degree angle, the lowest point on the side of the stem opposite the bud.
Climbing roses Remove dead canes, weak growth and spent flowers. Don't remove long canes unless absoutely necessary for space considerations. For annual pruning remove only old, unproductive wood. Cut laterals that bloomed last season to 2-4 buds. The best blooms are on 2-3 year old wood.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) Light pruning to shape. For larger flowers cut back last season's growth to 2 buds in winter.
Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta) Cut plant down to ground after it finishes blooming in fall before it goes to seed. Remove spent flowers before seeding.
Russian Sage (Perovskia) Blooms on new wood. Cut to ground in spring after danger of frost is past.
Sage (Salvia) In spring cut back shoots to shape plant. Deadhead.
S.officinalis (Garden Sage) perennial herb can be cut back after blooming. Use leaves (fresh or dry) as seasoning.
Sedum Cut back spreading species after flowering to maintain shape. Herbaceous species need dividing every 3-4 years.
Shasta Daisy (Chrysanthumum maximum) For continuous bloom deadhead regularly.
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) Fast growing. Weak wood and narrow crotch angles make breakeage likely. Thin branches when young to avoid crowding, keep strongest crotches amd thin top to reduce wind resistance. At maturity, after training, very little pruning except to remove damaged, dead, weak or interfering wood. Bleed profusely so do not prune in spring or during most active growth.
Smokebush, Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggygria) Little pruning needed. Flowers on new wood. Beauty comes after flowers drop. For foliage only, head stems back in early spring to second-lowest set of buds. To keep plants small cut to ground in late winter-early spring.
Spiraea As a general rule spiraeas can be pruned according to form and time of bloom. Prune spring flowring types (Bridlewreath, garland, etc.) as soon as they complete blooming. They may set additional blooms if pruned immediately after blooming. Summer/fall bloomers (Billard, Bumald, etc) are pruned in late winter or early spring. If in doubt allow to bloom to make the pruning decision.
Loose graceful forms need annual renewal. Thin branches, head back to young laterals. Remove older wood by cutting back to ground. Shrubby types need less severe pruning.
Spruce (Picea) Pinch stems or head back to another branch or main stem to limit size and encourage bushy growth. Prune in spring. Pruning into mature wood may not produce new foliage. Remove bottom branches when they begin to die back.
Sumac (Rhus) Needs little pruning. Cut unwanted or overly tall stems to ground in spring.
Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) Flowers on new growth. Head back in late winter to early spring to control growth and encourage branching. Remove suckers and root prune to discourage ground runners. To renew cut to ten inches.
Virbunum Evergreen varieties require minimal pruning in spring to remove damaged or crossing shoots and to maintain shape.
Deciduous varieties can be pruned heavily in spring to remove thin, weak wood. Cut back older wood every 2-3 years to 2 or 3 buds from ground.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus) Prune only to control or direct growth. Minor pruning throught season. Radical pruning in late winter/early spring.
Weigela Needs a lot of pruning. Cut branches that bloomed back to unflowered side branch. Leave only 1-2 laterals on each stem. Cut back 2+ year old wood back to ground. Prune weak, damaged or dead wood at any time, the winter damaged wood in the spring. Prune lightly in the summer to control growth.
Wisteria Flowers on previous years wood. Head back stems after blooms have faded. Head back to 3-4 buds in late winter if necessary. Renew by severe pruning almost to ground.
Yews (Taxus) Tolerates severe pruning. Prune in spring before growth begins. Control growth by thinning or heading. For denser growth, cut back stem ends. Shear hedges again in mid-summer if needed.