Timely Tasks: Dormant Pruning

It can be helpful to have a second set of hands during dormant pruning.

These sunny, frigid days are a great opportunity to consider dormant pruning for shrubs, trees, and some hardy vines in our Minnesota gardens. If you have been itching to get outside in your yard and garden, now is an ideal time to evaluate various plants for potential dormant pruning.

A primary reason to consider dormant pruning is that it reduces stress on trees and shrubs. The vascular system of most plants enters dormancy in the winter to protect them from extreme temperatures. By pruning during this period of dormancy, we avoid shocking the plant, and the natural “waking up” in spring promotes rapid healing of cuts.

In spring, shrubs utilize stored energy to produce the first leaves of the growing season.  Throughout the summer the leaves produce the food the plant requires and stores any excess in the plant tissues to be used for growth and defense against disease and pests.  By pruning in the winter most of this stored energy can be saved for use during the growing season to produce healthy new growth, blooms, and to withstand environmental stress.​

Another reason to consider dormant pruning is that it avoids major pests and diseases that can be present during the other seasons. When open cuts are present in the summer, there is a much greater chance of pests, disease, mold, fungus, or other problem from developing. By pruning in the winter, all of these are avoided.

Thirdly, wintertime is ideal for pruning because the structure and shape of the tree or shrub are very apparent when the leaf cover is off.  For shrubs and trees that would do better with pruning at other seasons, like lilacs and other flowering shrubs, taking the opportunity to capture some photos in the winter makes it easier to know when and where to prune in the spring and summer. Noting where branches are crossed, tangled, rubbing, damaged, or diseased now saves time and effort when things have leafed out in the spring.

Winter offers an excellent opportunity to prune when the full structure of the shrub is easily visible.

Finally, dormant pruning is a great opportunity to spread the work and cost of garden maintenance through more of the year. For you do-it-yourselfers, it means less work during those always busy spring weekends, not having to compete with rain and mud in the quest for taming your wild shrubs. For our clients, dormant pruning can make a hefty impact on the cost of their spring clean up visit by cutting down the amount of time spent on pruning. More frequent but shorter visits from HSG can mean more savings for you and a more beautiful yard and garden, all year round!