fall pruning

Fall Pruning: Don't Do It!

As the trees go bare, you might be tempted to start hacking off some limbs, but fall pruning could cause more harm than good.

Fall Pruning: Don't Do It!

Drop those shears! Pruning should wait until mid-winter.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—There's something about this time of the year that makes people crave pruning more than vampires yearn for blood. With fall garden cleanup in full swing, maybe it's all the raking and mulching that has people going bananas. But before you start hacking at your trees and bushes, take a tip from a seasoned gardening expert. "The rules of fall pruning are simple: Prune nothing in the fall! That’s N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Nada! Bupkiss! Zilch! Zero! Ladies—hide the pruners from 'helpful husbands!'" pleads emphatic gardening expert Mike McGrath, author of Mike McGrath's Book of Compost, and radio host of WYYY FM Philadelphia's You Bet Your Garden radio show. That goes for shrubs and plants as well as trees, McGrath insists. "Hang little signs on your roses that say, 'Leave me alone until midwinter; or even better, spring.' There are no exceptions! Do not prune anything now. Got it?"

Do you feel like you just got scolded by a third-grade teacher? Let it serve as a reminder that fall is not the right time to trim trees and shrubs, even though the fallen leaves have exposed all their imperfections. That's right, put your pruning shears back in the shed for at least a month or so.

Here are some pruning basics, to be used when it's a safer time to trim back trees and shrubs:

• Understand why fall is not prime time for pruning. "As I try to stress every year at this time, pruning them now stimulates new growth just when the plants are trying to go dormant, and this severely weakens the plants," says McGrath. "Plus, if you prune on a warm day, sap rises up into the plant. Then, it drops below freezing that night, and boom—not a pretty sight."

Instead, prune in the dead of winter or in early spring, he suggests. That's if you can't stop yourself. "Spring bloomers can get a haircut right after they finish flowering. But get over this pruning obsession—few plants other than fruit trees actually require it, and most gardeners do too much, not too little," McGrath contends.

Still, proper pruning of overgrown flowering shrubs or fruit trees near your house will help the plants produce more flowers and fruit, which can also benefit wildlife. Doing it wisely can also help trees and shrubs give diseases and pests the cold shoulder. Just remember…don't do it in the fall! Waiting until winter means that most woody plants are dormant, and because leaves have already fallen, it makes it easier for you to see what you're doing. For early spring bloomers (like lilacs and spireas) that only need light pruning, prune them just after they finish blooming. For very overgrown deciduous shrubs, winter pruning is probably best.

Published on: November 2, 2009
Updated on: October 1, 2010

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fall pruning

some old trees falling down the new roof because of oldest and because of wind, so sometime that way are most cheapest for people

You Can Prune

You can and should prune trees all year around. If there is deadwood in your trees this is considered non-conducive tissue, and should be removed, these tissues afford entrance of both insects(borers), and a vector for many diseases.

The Tree Doctor, ArboristJournal.

Pruning elm trees

The conventional wisdom has been not to prune elm trees between April and November as that opens them up to attack by Dutch Elm beetles. I prune my elms Feb.-Mar. if needed.

Fig tree

Thank you for sending the Email on not pruning my fig tree in the Fall. I was just going to do it but will wait until mid winter. My fig tree made about 300 large figs this year and they were delicious. I live in Brooklyn and would like to know where to prune. The branches are quite large. Thank you.

Fall pruning

Was planning on doing the fall pruining and happen to catch
your email just in time. Thank You for the warnings and I'm
going to try it YOUR WAY!! I so do appreciate someone being
totally forthright in helping us novice gardeners accompolish
things that need to be done. And, knowing that your advice
is true and accurate only benefits the plants in their trying
to go dormat. Thanks again, you are appreciated!

Wind wipping?

The wind only blows in fall and winter in your home town? Here it blows in all seasons. I have tried pruning in both times, fall and Feb. I have found that the late winter/early spring the best. I think the real expert who wrote the artical did a good job. Most of your true gardens (Jerry Baker and others) will give the same advice. Wind wipping? Good day


Because we live on Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands, I prune more often since many plants tend to grow and bloom most of the year. Exceptions are the plumerias and Mountain Apples. I really liked your pruning article with its excellent tips.

Fall prunig

This so called expert is wrong! There are lots of plants like raspberry & roses, that need to be pruned in the fall. This is to stop wind wipping. Not pruning these plants can do more harm than good!


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