Laughlin: It's about time to start pruning
February is a great time to start pruning or finish pruning shade trees, summer flowering shrubs and hedges.
Spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, quince and azaleas need to be pruned immediately after flowering, so be sure to wait to prune those.
Keep in mind that plants should not be pruned unless you have a reason to prune them. Sometimes we prune to train a plant so that we will minimize the hazard of limbs interfering with power lines or blocking sight lines at driveways or street corners. Pruning also is used to maintain plant health by removing dead, diseased or damaged branches.
Pruning often is needed to restrict growth. Regular pruning can prevent a plant from overgrowing its space in the landscape and prevent the need for drastic pruning in the future.
Another reason to prune is to improve the quality of flowers, foliage and stems. Summer flowering shrubs such as the butterfly bush, crape myrtle and Rose of Sharon, produce their flower buds on spring growth, so they can be pruned in the winter or early spring. Wait to prune roses until late in the month or early March.
Evergreen trees and shrubs should be pruned before the spring flush of growth. Fruit trees and blackberries also should be pruned now if you have not done so already.
How much to prune? There are exceptions, but the recommendation is to never remove more than one-third of the branching system of any tree or about two-thirds of a shrub or vine in any given year.
When pruning trees, do not cut flush to the trunk or main stem. Instead, remove limbs with bulges (branch collars) flush to the bulge, not flush with the trunk. Remove limbs without the bulge almost flush with the trunk.
Research has shown that wound dressings or tree paint are not recommended as previously thought. It also has been determined that wound dressing slows the callusing process and can harbor disease organisms rather than exclude them. A good, clean, unpainted pruning cut normally will callus faster than a painted one.
Larger limbs that would require a bow saw or chain saw or jobs that require a ladder are probably best left to a professional arborist. When hiring arborists, make sure that they have insurance against personal injury and property damage.
For more information on pruning of trees, shrubs and roses, go to osufacts.okstate.edu and search for Fact Sheets 6409, “Pruning Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Vines” and 6403 “Roses in Oklahoma.”
The Oklahoma County Extension Service is offering a free half day workshop to help you get prepared for springtime in the garden. The “Step into Spring” workshop will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Oklahoma County Extension Center at 2500 NE 63. The workshop will cover early spring planting, pruning, lawn care, landscape water needs, vegetable garden prep and other timely topics for your garden and landscaping needs. In addition, the Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension registered dietitian will demonstrate how to prepare healthy seasonal recipes, provide a food tasting, and offer seasonal recipes. Registration is free, but you must preregister by calling 713-1125.
Email Julia Laughlin, Oklahoma County Extension Horticulture educator, at email@example.com .