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Spring Pruning

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Date:  April 5, 2021
Agent:  Donna Teasley

Hello, this is Donna Teasley, Horticulture Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center.

Spring flowering trees are in full bloom now with more to come, I’m sure. I get lots of calls about pruning these trees each spring. Most early spring flowering trees and shrubs need little if any pruning. But occasionally there is a need to cut them back. A good rule of thumb is that if the tree flowers in early spring such as Bradford pears, dogwoods, red buds and cherries, they should be pruned as soon as the flowers start to fade. The reason for this is that these early blooming trees put on next year’s flower bud not long after they finish blooming. So if you were to prune in the fall or late winter, you’re cutting off all of your pretty flowers.

But, there should be only a couple of reasons to prune one of these trees:  First, if it has broken or dead branches they should be removed. Or if the limbs are touching the house or are hanging too low they should be trimmed back. But, other than that, these trees should be left alone. Pruning will ruin the beauty of the natural shape of the tree. If the tree is too large for the location, move it or cut it down. It will always be a problem.

A good point to remember about pruning is that it should never be used to change a plant, only to enhance it. That doesn’t include trying to keep a tree at an eight foot height when it naturally grows  twenty feet tall.

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information about this program, you can call us at 439-4460.