Follow these rules for productive pruning

Recent strong winds have removed many of the dead leaves from the trees and shrubs in the area.

Recent strong winds have removed many of the dead leaves from the trees and shrubs in the area.

Loss of leaves ensures the plants will not be damaged by a heavy snow fall. It is also an indication that the plants are dormant and ready for winter.

Dormant trees and shrubs can be pruned between now and early spring. Fruit trees are usually pruned in early spring.

Not all plants need to be pruned.

Trees that are placed correctly and never damaged often grow into shapely trees without being pruned. Other plants will need to be shaped due to: size, placement, injury or a genetic deformity.

Be proactive when pruning deciduous trees. Removing branches that are heading in the wrong direction when the tree is small, as it is much easier than removing a large limb. Bottom branches are often removed for ease of walking and maintenance.

Evergreen trees should be lightly pruned at the end of June or the first of July.

Do not remove the top of the tree or bottom branches as it deforms and weakens the plant. Evergreens without bottom branches look bare similar to ones found in cow pastures. Ones with the top removed develop two leaders.

If a large amount of the top is removed the top of the tree will rot and become a hazard.

Trees that are too large for the yard or area where they were planted should be removed by a professional.

Shrubs are healthier and more attractive when they are pruned on a regular basis. Removing some of the inner growth at the roots will ensure that the sun reaches the centre of the plant which encourages new growth. Shrubs that are not pruned will have a dead centre and live branches on the outside similar to an old perennial.

Removing some of the old growth every year or couple of years will ensure that the plant will be constantly producing new growth through out the plant.

The early blooming shrubs set their flowerbeds during the summer months. Pruning them when they are dormant will remove next year’s blooms.

Pruning these plants soon after they bloom will not damage the plant.

Pruning is easy and successful if a few rules are followed.

Start by removing all the dead and diseased growth. Once this has been completed it is possible to see the shape and size of the plant.

Next, find crossing branches and determine which one should be removed.

Take out the branch that is growing in the wrong direction or rubbing on more than one branch. Another thing to keep in mind is the final shape of the plant.

Never remove one that will leave the plant misshapen or lopsided.

Lastly, shape the plant. Expect to see the cut ends until next spring when the plant leafs out.

Never remove more than a quarter of the plant in one growing season.

If too much of a plant is removed it will become stressed and produce a large amount of new growth. Much of this growth will die during the winter and have to be removed next spring. Stressed trees attract insects and are more susceptible to diseases than are healthy trees.

Always cut back to another branch, trunk or the ground. Stubs that are left on branches will die, rot and leave openings for insects and diseases.

A good prune job will increase the health and look of the plant. Take time to follow the basic steps and get healthier plants.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at

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