Key Points

  • Timing of pruning can affect amount of bloom or fruit
  • Timing of pruning can affect growth habit and shape
  • Pruning to correct storm or other damage or remove disease or insect problem may be accomplished at any time

Proper timing helps to ensure desired results from pruning. Some plants are susceptible to diseases if pruned at the wrong time of year. The quality of the bloom as well as size, shape and aesthetics of the plant can be ruined.

Late Summer and Fall

Some trees have free flowing sap and will ‘bleed’ excessively if pruned in early spring. While unsightly, the bleeding sap causes little harm to the plants. Such trees include: maple, honeylocust, butternut, walnut, birch, ironwood, beech and elm. Prune these trees in late summer or as leaves are falling. Prune only very lightly in early summer to minimize bleeding.

Early Spring – Pre-Bloom

Flowering fruit trees or shrubs that bloom along the sides of branches or on spurs of last year’s growth should be pruned in early spring before bloom or new growth occurs. Pruning consists of thinning out excessive branches and removing water sprouts, suckers, and diseased or damaged wood. These species include:

Apple (Malus)
Pear (Pyrus spp.)
Cherry (fruiting varieties – Prunus spp.)
Peach (fruiting varieties – Prunus spp.)
Apricot (Prunu spp.)
Bush Cherries (such as P. tomentosa)
Cotoneaster spp.
Pyracantha spp.
Holly spp.
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles spp.)
Chokeberry (Aronia spp.)
Crabapples (Malus spp.)
Hawthorne (Crataegu sps p.)
Barberry (Berberis spp.)
Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
Buffaloberry (Shephe arida rgentea)
Peashrub (Caragana spp.)
Alpine Curran (Ribet s alpin um) Sumac (Rhus spp.)
Smoke Tree (Cotinus cogg ygria)
Euonymus spp.
Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.)

Bush dogwood (Comus stolonifera, C. sericea, C. sanguinea) that are grown for their brightly colored bark are pruned hard by thinning out part of the canes to the ground in the early spring to develop strong new shoots. The young bark is more brightly-colored than older bark.

Plants that bloom on current season’s growth should be pruned in the spring before growth starts. The following plants are usually pruned to the first or second pair of buds above the ground at that time.

Clematis (most varieties)
Garden Roses
Hydrange spp.a
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Spiraea (summer flowering)
Umbrella Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)
Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.)