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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 l.jpg

Pruning Trees and Shrubs

Rick Abrahamson

University of Minnesota Extension

Clay County

When should trees and shrubs be pruned l.jpg

When should trees and shrubsbe pruned?

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January - February

  • Oak

    • Oak Wilt

  • Elm

    • Dutch Elm Disease

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  • Oak

  • Ash

    • Ash borer

  • Birch

    • Bronze Birch borer

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Fireblight control




Shade and ornamental trees




Early April (1st – 15th)

  • Stem canker control

    • Honey-locust

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Early April (1st – 15th)

  • Viburnum

  • Evergreens

    • Spruce

    • Shrub flowering habits

      • Hydrangea

      • Bush Honeysuckle

      • Spireas (summer)

    • Foliage shrubs

      • Alpine currant

      • Barberry

      • Dogwood

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    Flowering habits



    Flowering Cherry

    Juneberry (Serviceberry)






    Late April (15th – 30th)

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    Flowering habits

    Flowering Plum

    Japanese Tree Lilac





    Spirea (early)

    Shrub Rose

    May - June

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    May - June

    • Bleeding

      • Maple

      • Boxelder

      • Black Walnut

      • Ironwood

      • Weeping Willow

      • Kentucky Coffee Tree

    • Evergreens

      • Pine

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    July - August

    • Evergreens (don’t prune after August 15th)

      • Arborvitae

      • Yews

      • Juniper

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    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

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    Prune for function shrubs be pruned?

    • Broken, diseased, and dead

    • Obstructing limbs and branches

    • Clear doors and windows

    • Form, shape, vigor, and beauty

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    Why prune? shrubs be pruned?

    • Control habit of growth

    • Remove dead, broken, and diseased

    • Produce desired shape and form

    • Improve flowering and fruiting

    • Improve survival rate

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    Pruning equipment shrubs be pruned?

    • Hand Shears

    • Pruning Loppers

    • Pruning Saw

    • Pole Tree Saw

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    Pruning equipment shrubs be pruned?

    • No buckets, ladders, or boxes!!!!!

    • Stay on the ground!!!!!

    • Get professional help, know what you want and make sure it is done right.

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    Botany of pruning shrubs be pruned?

    • Branches elongate from buds

    • Branches increase in diameter from the cambium

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    Where to cut? shrubs be pruned?

    Grow your plants by choice, not by chance.

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    General pruning shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Heavy and large cuts shrubs be pruned?

    • Under cut

    • Over-cut off

    • Stub removal at shoulder ring

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    Future of your tree shrubs be pruned?

    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!!!

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    Directional pruning for trees shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Deciduous shrubs shrubs be pruned?

    • Rejuvenation

      • Induces new and compact growth

      • Do not top!!!!!!

    • Heading Back

      • Reduces size

      • Cuts made to side branches or buds!

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    When shrubs get old and leggy shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Prune Junipers with a purpose shrubs be pruned?

    • Start when plants are young

    • Strive for a disciplined form

    • Avoid neglect and abuse

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

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    Prune Junipers with a purpose shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Building an upright Juniper shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Building an upright Juniper shrubs be pruned?

    • 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

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    Building a hedge shrubs be pruned?

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    Low hedge (1-3’) shrubs be pruned?

    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

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    Building a hedge shrubs be pruned?

    • Screening hedge (>10’)

      • Eastern Red Cedar

      • Flowering Crabapple

      • Siberian Crabapple

      • Common Lilac

      • Amur Maple

      • Siberian Peashrub

      • Black Hills Spruce

      • Colorado Spruce

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    Time for a test shrubs be pruned?

    Good luck!