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Pruning Trees and Shrubs. Rick Abrahamson University of Minnesota Extension Clay County. When should trees and shrubs be pruned?. January - February. Oak Oak Wilt Elm Dutch Elm Disease. March. Oak Ash Ash borer Birch Bronze Birch borer. Fireblight control Apple/crabapple

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pruning trees and shrubs

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Rick Abrahamson

University of Minnesota Extension

Clay County

january february
January - February
  • Oak
    • Oak Wilt
  • Elm
    • Dutch Elm Disease
  • Oak
  • Ash
    • Ash borer
  • Birch
    • Bronze Birch borer
early april 1 st 15 th
Fireblight control




Shade and ornamental trees




Early April (1st – 15th)
  • Stem canker control
    • Honey-locust

Early April (1st – 15th)

    • Viburnum
  • Evergreens
    • Spruce
  • Shrub flowering habits
    • Hydrangea
    • Bush Honeysuckle
    • Spireas (summer)
  • Foliage shrubs
    • Alpine currant
    • Barberry
    • Dogwood
late april 15 th 30 th
Flowering habits



Flowering Cherry

Juneberry (Serviceberry)






Late April (15th – 30th)
may june
Flowering habits

Flowering Plum

Japanese Tree Lilac





Spirea (early)

Shrub Rose

May - June

May - June

  • Bleeding
    • Maple
    • Boxelder
    • Black Walnut
    • Ironwood
    • Weeping Willow
    • Kentucky Coffee Tree
  • Evergreens
    • Pine
july august
July - August
  • Evergreens (don’t prune after August 15th)
    • Arborvitae
    • Yews
    • Juniper
september december
September - December
  • Leave pruning tools in storage
    • Healing of wounds slower in fall
    • Drying and dieback more likely
    • Decay fungi spread high
  • Exception
    • Oak and Elm
prune for function
Prune for function
  • Broken, diseased, and dead
  • Obstructing limbs and branches
  • Clear doors and windows
  • Form, shape, vigor, and beauty
why prune
Why prune?
  • Control habit of growth
  • Remove dead, broken, and diseased
  • Produce desired shape and form
  • Improve flowering and fruiting
  • Improve survival rate
pruning equipment
Pruning equipment
  • Hand Shears
  • Pruning Loppers
  • Pruning Saw
  • Pole Tree Saw

Pruning equipment

  • No buckets, ladders, or boxes!!!!!
  • Stay on the ground!!!!!
  • Get professional help, know what you want and make sure it is done right.
botany of pruning
Botany of pruning
  • Branches elongate from buds
  • Branches increase in diameter from the cambium
where to cut
Where to cut?

Grow your plants by choice, not by chance.

general pruning
General pruning
  • Keep diseased, broken, and dead branches pruned out at all times
  • Avoid weak crotches
  • Remove cross over and interfering branches
  • Prune to side branches or main trunks
  • Never leave stubs, snags, or ragged cuts
heavy and large cuts
Heavy and large cuts
  • Under cut
  • Over-cut off
  • Stub removal at shoulder ring
future of your tree
Future of your tree

Weak crotch left on

Pruned up to high to soon

Open spreading form

Prune to a central leader

Future lies in your hand and your head!!!

directional pruning for trees
Directional pruning for trees
  • Top work
    • Reduce size
    • Clear overhead lines
  • Prune to side branches
    • Stub causes “Bird nesting”
  • Prune limbs to shoulder ring
    • Proper cut = small wound, fast healing
    • Flush cut = large wound, slow healing
deciduous shrubs
Deciduous shrubs
  • Rejuvenation
    • Induces new and compact growth
    • Do not top!!!!!!
  • Heading Back
    • Reduces size
    • Cuts made to side branches or buds!
when shrubs get old and leggy
When shrubs get old and leggy
  • Consider rejuvenation
    • Remove half of existing old canes
    • Next year remove remaining canes
    • Keep new growth pinched back to induce side branching and compact growth
  • Cut all growth back
    • All growth new
  • Removal and replanting
    • May be most practical and economical
prune junipers with a purpose
Prune Junipers with a purpose
  • Start when plants are young
  • Strive for a disciplined form
  • Avoid neglect and abuse

Discipline: “Training which corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects”

prune junipers with a purpose26
Prune Junipers with a purpose
  • Avoid sheared and ugly ends
    • Stops terminal growth and avoids stringy growth
  • Cut deep
    • Back in to a top growing branch
  • Pinch back new, young shoot growth as it develops each season
building an upright juniper
Building an upright Juniper
  • Single center trunk (Leader)
  • Prune selectively
    • Do not shear
  • Vertically growing branches
    • Bend for more horizontal position
    • Head back or prune down as far as possible
building an upright juniper28
Building an upright Juniper
  • Close branching causes crowding
    • Remove weakest or poorest of those in conflict
  • Rejuvenation
    • Prune down to desired size and form
    • Replacement may be better choice
    • Proceed with courage!
    • Always leave some green
building a hedge30
Low hedge (1-3’)

Pygmy Caragana

Alpine Current

Dwarf Gooseberry

Medium hedge (3-6’)

Globe Caragana

Alpine Current

Dwarf Ninebark

Large hedge (>6’)


Rocky Mountain Juniper

Black Hills Spruce

Common Lilac

Chinese Lilac

Colorado Spruce

Building a hedge
building a hedge31
Building a hedge
  • Screening hedge (>10’)
    • Eastern Red Cedar
    • Flowering Crabapple
    • Siberian Crabapple
    • Common Lilac
    • Amur Maple
    • Siberian Peashrub
    • Black Hills Spruce
    • Colorado Spruce
time for a test
Time for a test

Good luck!