“The best time to prune is when you remember to do it.”
That saying is basically true, particularly for large woody plants that have been in the ground for a few years. That’s because most of us forget to prune until branches are slapping us in the face when we mow.
The best time for plants is winter/early spring before they begin to leaf out for the season. It’s December now in Asheville and we’ve had a couple of hard freezes (27 or lower), so the leaves have fallen off of most deciduous plants. At this time of year, it’s definitely time to prune whenever you get motivated to do it.
Single-stem trees are probably the trickiest plants to prune, it’s a bit of an art and a science. If you keep a few things in mind, and get a few under your belt, it’s not so daunting. Here are 3 basic tips for pruning trees the first year or two after planting.
- Cut off branches growing lower than 2′ at minimum. 3′ is probably even better if it is a medium to large tree. This keeps things tidy and clean at the base.
- Thin out congested areas by cutting away a few of the smaller branches to create space. This will depend on the size and type of tree. Some species, like the cherry in the video below, tend to put on a lot of new growth in the season and need heavier thinning.
- Cut away small branches that are crossing (or about to cross), growing in towards the center, or growing down towards the ground. You are looking to create an open, vase-like shape to encourage airflow.
If you are interested in learning more about pruning, “The Pruning Book” by Lee Reich is an excellent resource. Youtube is full of great videos on the subject as well, though not so much this one: