Before you head out to your unsuspecting trees and shrubs armed with saws and pruners you need to know what you are pruning and when it flowers to understand how it responds to pruning. The reason we go to all the trouble of pruning is to keep our trees and shrubs healthy by removing dead and diseased limbs, opening the plant for better circulation or just plain old shaping to keep it looking great.
Hardwood trees and shrubs without flowers: if you prune these trees and shrubs while they are dormant it is easier to see the main structure and it makes it easier to see how the tree wants to be pruned. Usually, the best time to prune in this case is during the late fall through early spring since leaving wounds here can cause severe problems with insects that are actually attracted to the scent put out by these trees and shrubs.
Trees and shrubs that flower in early spring (redbud, dogwood, etc.) should be pruned immediately after flowering (flower buds arise the year before they flush, and will form on the new growth). I learned the hard way that lilacs need to be pruned right after they flower to give the plant time to rest otherwise they put all of their energy into the seeds and you will have no flowers the following year.
Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in late spring/summer, after they bloom:
- Bridal Wreath Spirea
Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in the dormant periods between winter and early spring:
- Bradford Pear
- Butterfly Bush
- Crape Myrtle
- Flowering Dogwood
- Flowering Plum
So, take a look at what you have in the yard and start to make a pruning guide for the yard. Document the type of plant and how it should be treated. Mark the dates on a planting calendar so that you can start to make your own garden guide. It really helps to keep it all in one notebook.