The Beginner’s Guide to Winter Pruning
Secure the secateurs; it’s time for some winter pruning!
WHY PRUNE IN WINTER?
There are a few reasons why you should prune (some!) plants in winter. Firstly—as we all know, most plants grow prolifically in spring. New shoots appear, quickly hardening into woody stems, while flower buds sprout and make way for delicious fruit, and delightful florals. If you wait until spring to prune your plants, you’ll sever the new shoots and set your plant back a season or two. If you prune earlier (in winter), your plant will shoot from the remaining stems, and be right on track for a great growing season.
Second, we prune in winter to remove old/dead growth and flowers. Generally, flowering plants bloom during spring and into autumn. By the time winter rolls around, most flowers will be dead and spent. Pruning removes any decaying plant matter (like dead flowers), lessening the risk of diseases and fungal infections.
WHAT SHOULD I PRUNE IN WINTER?
As a general rule of thumb, winter is a good time to prune most types of roses, hedges, deciduous trees, and ornamentals—but individual plant varieties will vary. However, if you notice any dead, woody limbs on any plants throughout the year, give them a quick chop without hesitation.
HOW TO PRUNE
You might want to prune a plant to control its size and shape, or to maximise airflow. The way you prune will, again, depend on the type of plant you’re pruning. But generally, you’ll want to prune around 30% of a plant’s foliage maximum. And for large, well-established fruit trees, avoid pruning more than 10%.
Once you’ve worked out which branches to prune, grab a pruning tool. For smaller plants like roses, this could be some secateurs. For larger plants, you may need pruning shears or a pruning saw. Disinfect your tool with rubbing alcohol or a bleach solution, and pick a branch/shoot. Find a node—a node usually appears as a bulge in a plant’s stem, and may have a shoot or leaves protruding from it. Then cut diagonally, an inch above the node, severing the top of the stem. If you cut too far above the node, your plant’s stem will rot downwards towards it. If you’re unlucky, this rot could spread to the rest of your plant! Continue working your way around the plant, shaping as desired.
Remember the rubbing alcohol/bleach solution you used before you started? Try to disinfect your tools between each cut, and especially between pruning each plant, to avoid spreading diseases. Once you’re happy with the shape and size of your plant, throw your clippings in the compost or green bin, and voila! You’re done!
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