In the next weeks or so, before warm weather arrives for good, you should do the routine pruning on your landscape ornamental.


In the next weeks or so, before warm weather arrives for good, you should do the routine pruning on your landscape ornamental.  Pruning isnít the most complicated thing in the world, but it is an important part of good cultural care in your landscape.  So, itís important that you do it right.  In this article I will give some pointers on why pruning is necessary.  Mu information was provided by Emeritus Professor of Horticulture Dr. Robert J. Black, of the University of Floridaís Institute of Foods and Agricultural Sciences.



Pruning is the removal of plant parts, typically shoots, branches, fronds and flowers to improve health, control growth or influence fruiting, flowering or appearance.  A variety of specific situations call for pruning, and if you donít do it, your landscape wonít look as good as it should.



Obviously, if a plant has dead, weak or damaged wood or wood thatís infested with insects and plant disease prune to remove it. 



When transplanting, prune to foliage to balance the top of the plant with the root system.  Rejuvenate older plants in your landscape by pruning away some of the old stems and branches.  This will stimulate new, more vigorous growth.  Prune to make a plant look like you want it to.  If you want a certain size and shape, pruning is essential.  Finally prune to make a plant produce more flowers or fruit.



Deciding when to prune can be confusing.  In Florida we can grow so many different plants with direct pruning requirements that itís impossible to pick one right time to prune everything in the landscape.  You can do light trimming and corrective pruning anytime of the year.  But the best time for pruning depend on the kind of plant you have.



Most of the flowering plants in the landscape should be pruned right after they flower.  Deciduous plants, plants like Dogwood, Crape Myrtle and Jacaranda which go dormant during cold weather, should be pruned during the winter or early spring.  Most evergreens in this category includes plants like Podocorpus, Ligustrum, Hollies and Wax Myrtle, can be pruned anytime, but it is best to prune before growth starts in the spring.



Shrubs that bloom in summer and fall things like Hibiscus, Roses and Oleander should also be pruned before the first flush of growth in the spring.



There is one very important exception to these recommendations, pruning to remove cold-damaged limbs and branches.  For this, wait until after new growth starts in the spring.  If you do heavy pruning now to cut away serious damage to main branches and trunks, you end up losing more of the plant than you have to.  By waiting until new growth begins, you can tell how much of the plant has been killed and how much of it will recover from the cold.  Even the small branches which have obviously been killed should be left on the plant until spring.  They may be unsightly, but they can help protect the plant against further damage if we get more cold weather.  Use hand shears and loppers, not hedge clippers, for smaller branches.  Shears will crush and mangle larger branches instead of cutting them cleanly, so get a pruning saw for these.  Under cut large branches so they donít tear away long sections of bark when they fall.  Make sure all cuts are smooth and flush with the remaining branch or trunk.  Jagged edges invite insect and disease problem.



For more information on growing pruning landscape plants contact the Gulf County Extension Service at 639-3200 or visit our website:  http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu or www.http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu and see Publication ENH 1190 & Publication ENH 971