Pruning Flowering Trees
Most hardwood trees are pruned in their dormant season, just before new growth begins. This practice allows us to see and study a tree’s branch structure so that we can make pruning cuts that maintain the natural form of the tree. Also, dormant season pruning allows the tree to have a full growing season in which to close the pruning wounds, and reduces the transmission of diseases. But spring flowering trees present a problem, because if we prune in the dormant season, many of the flower buds are lost.
So, early spring bloomers, like redbud, crabapple, dogwood, and callery pear should be pruned immediately after they bloom, since their flowers are born on the previous season’s growth. By pruning right after the bloom period, you still maximize the time available for healing the pruning wounds, and avoid pruning out next year’s incipient flower buds. If you wait too long into the summer months to prune spring flowering trees, you may defeat your purpose because, unbeknown to you, the buds for next year may already have formed. To avoid any guessing, prune right after the flower petals fall off the tree.
Even though we may not prune spring flowering trees in the dormant season, dead and broken branches should be removed regardless of the season. Additionally, in the dormant season, when the branch structure is clearly visible, it is wise to mark with a bit of paint or a loosely tied string, the branches that you want to remove or head back.
If you have a question about the proper time to prune a tree, or have questions about how to make proper pruning cuts, please call the Extension Office.