Snip, cut: Fall and winter pruning tips

A picture-perfect hedge or patch of shrubbery is the dream of many a homeowner; the reality, however,...

A picture-perfect hedge or patch of shrubbery is the dream of many a homeowner; the reality, however, can be far from ideal. With that in mind, here a few tips to aid you in your quest for the perfect lawn.

Why prune?

One big reason is aesthetics; another, of course, is the health of your plants. Pruning (like bending) allows you to direct your plants to grow a specific way and can be a great way to maximize the use of limited space. With recurring droughts over recent years in the Atlanta area, it also helps your plants utilize available moisture in the best possible way.


You may be thinking, "Types of pruning? I thought you just grab a pair of hedge clippers and go to work!" Well, there's a little more to it than that.

  • Topiary and bonsai: These are probably the most recognizable techniques because of the unusual and very distinct ways that they alter the appearance of the plant. Because of their relative difficulty, they may not be appropriate for beginning gardeners.
  • Thinning: This technique allows the tree or shrub to absorb more direct sunlight. It involves removing the topmost branches from the plant. Thinning does not really alter the shape of your plant.
  • Landscape pruning: Mainly used on trees and large shrubs, this technique is most commonly used by professional arborists.

When to prune

As you might imagine, different plants are best pruned at different times of the year. Many of the plants and trees that are native to the Atlanta area (and many that aren't) are best pruned in the fall and winter seasons. October to January is usually the recommended time to prune deciduous plants; however, you may find it necessary to perform off-season maintenance if growth becomes unruly. In this case, you should only remove dead or dying branches, but be careful though. It is easy to remove too many and thereby stress your plant unnecessarily.

Why you should contact a pro

You still may not feel comfortable embarking on your expedition without consulting a pro first. Below are just a few reasons why this is ultimately the best route to go.

Plant Health: It is important that the health of your plant life be taken into consideration when pruning. Cutting exposes plants to bacteria and other pathogens that could adversely affect the health of your plant. A professional will be much better informed about proper technique and ways to ensure that your plant stays healthy!

Safety: When working with larger plants, it may be necessary to use harness equipment or other safety devices that the average homeowner may not be familiar with.

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