Prune deciduous trees and shrubs

Aim for an open, airy structure when you’re pruning

by Karen Murphy |
Published on

Now the leaves have virtually fully gone from your trees – all except perhaps a few birch leaves, which like to hang on a little longer – it’s the perfect time to renovate these deciduous, dormant plants.

This pruning really rejuvenates trees and shrubs, which would otherwise get too large and lanky, congested and unhealthy, if we don’t tend to many of them.

We do this job when they’re dormant to lessen the stress, to prevent sap ‘bleed’ in some, and simply because we can see what we’re doing!

All the impact and shock of such as drastic trim can be absorbed by their winter dormancy, and by the time spring comes, they’ll be happy enough to burst into growth.

There are a few things to remember when pruning – firstly, remove obviously damaged, dead and congested branches.

Prune some fresh new stems that’ll bud, as it helps the plant become bushy, shocking the remaining budding stems to grow freely.

Cut just above a bud, about a centimetre to the top of it, and sloping away from the bud so water runs off.

It can be worrying to prune, thinking you may be taking too much off, but most of the time your trees will love it in the long run – just be sure to create the right shape, with an open, airy canopy.

Do check whether the shrub or tree you’re pruning prefers light, medium or heavy pruning before you start.

Plants to prune now

Apple trees: Pruning now encourages fruiting next year. Create an open, wine-glass shape.

Grapevines: Prune now before the new year to prevent bleeding, cutting back to a main ‘arm’.

Cotinus: Needs little pruning until it gets out of hand – then prune heavily, removing older wood.

Cornus: Heavy-pruning cornus can help the plant become more vigorous and colourful next year.

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