Plants that can be pruned in fall

Q: What can I prune in the fall? Is it just summer blooming plants?

• Felix from Youngstown

A: Fall pruning seems to be a common task. I hear it more and more from homeowners. But it is not the BEST time to prune in general. It is ONE of the times to prune. And it depends on what plants or types of plants you are planning to prune.

You should never prune a plant just because it is fall. You should always prune a plant when it is the right time to prune a plant.

For example, pruning a lilac, forsythia or Oakleaf hydrangea right now means you will reduce or eliminate the blooms for next year’s show of flowers.

More often, experts say spring is the best time to prune. This is because we want to prune when plants are growing at the fastest rates and when callous formation to protect the tree is the greatest. So March to June is the most common and best time for most plants.

Fall is a great time for specific pruning. That is, to remove any dead branches, anything that is growing in the wrong direction or toward the center of the plant, and other minor pruning.

Most large, deciduous trees are OK to prune in fall. Oaks should only be pruned from November through April due to the spread of oak wilt disease. This disease is prevalent in Mahoning County.

Pruning evergreen shrubs such as taxus (yew) too late in late fall or early winter can result in browning of the pruned areas come spring. Early fall (September) is the best time for the second pruning of taxus for the year.

Most evergreens should be pruned in mid-spring to early summer. It doesn’t hurt to take a few branches here at there to do your holiday decorations, though. Selective pruning of certain branches should be the focus over shearing these shrubs.

For fruit trees, the end of the dormant season is the best time to prune. Some orchards and some homeowners prefer to prune at the end of harvest. While this may be all right for some apples and pears, it may be detrimental to peaches and other stone fruits. Depending on winter conditions, pruning cuts may not be able to heal and seal the wound. On peaches, colder temperatures may result in cracking at the pruning site. So later winter and very early spring are your best bets.

As for ornamental grasses, they are fine being cut down in the fall. But there is not a requirement to do so. Waiting too long into March to prune is a problem, though, because the new growth has already started. Cleaning out thick centers in these bunch grasses is most important of all.

Find more details on this at http://go.osu.edu/ornamentalgrasses

In general, you should always check before pruning. Do a basic search of the plant using “(plant name) pruning university extension” in your search. A factsheet or article from one of the extension systems across the country will give you a quick answer of when and how to prune that specific plant. It’s better to check than to miss the blooms.

For more information on pruning basics, go to http://go.osu.edu/fallpruning

Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. The Plant and Pest Clinic is open for help with plant issues, soil testing and insect identification. Winter hours vary. During the off-season, questions can be submitted at any time. Visit go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic or call 330-533-5538.


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