Winter Pruning

To be the best gardener you can be, it’s important to know the inner workings of your plants and understand that dormancy is in effect, a rejuvenating process. Dormant-season pruning is the best for several reasons: it encourages flower and fruit, and promotes strong growth and health by getting rid of sickly or diseased plant parts. It allows you to see plant form and structure clearly when you’re shaping trees and shrubs, and it enhances the beauty of your plants. The cool days of winter reduce the stress that plants experience, and when the growing season comes, the plants have an extra reserve of food in the roots.

Dormant pruning is an invigorating process

For fruit trees in particular, winter pruning creates a strong framework that supports fruit production, and reduces pests and insect control of overwintering pests. Many of us know them all too well and have suffered the havoc they create in our garden: codling moths, apple and pear scab, mites, aphids and scales, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs, leaf miners, and more. Since during fall energy is stored in the trunk and root system to support the top portion of the tree, dormant pruning improves the tree’s shape allowing light to penetrate interior branches, and increases fruit production.

Dan Cambpell prunning a fruit treeFruit trees require pruning for survival at planting, for stimulation of stronger, more vigorous growth from remaining buds, and for shaping to balance the top portion with the root system during the first three years. For mature trees however, dormant pruning keeps lateral branches in the proper shape and improves quality of fruit of the current year’s crop. It eliminates dead, diseased, and damaged wood, and reduces the overall surface area of the tree preventing an overload in case of snow and ice which can damage, and even break existing limbs.


Here are a few general pruning guidelines that will help you spot those plants, bushes, and fruit trees in your garden that would benefit from a dormant pruning:

  • Any dead, diseased, and broken branches.
  • Excessive vegetative growth at the top and excessive vegetative growth at the bottom of the tree.
  • Shoots emerging from the rootstock.
  • Competition between branches that grow into each other or toward the center of the tree.
  • Narrow or sharp-angled branches, and branches that touch the ground.
  • Growth that is below horizontal or angled toward the ground.

Dan Campbell trimming tree branchesIn terms of what plants specifically would benefit from winter pruning, here are a few that would surely appreciate a little TLC while they are dormant:  backyard grapes, autumn-fruiting raspberries, clematis (group 3), fig trees, wisteria, fruit bushes (blueberries, gooseberries, and redcurrants), shrub roses and climbing roses, apple and pear trees, hydrangeas, semi woody perennials, St. John’s wort, and deciduous ornamental trees.

While the benefits of dormant pruning are many, if done incorrectly it could damage your plants, shrubs and fruit trees, so feel free to give us a call with any questions you may have. Be sure to schedule your winter pruning, and let us take care of the details for you.