Pruning: Caring For Plants In Fall Brings Beauty, Health

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The High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona recently held a pruning workshop in the demonstration garden at Gila Community College.

Maricel Schneider, a local horticulturist and the owner of Agave Designs, a landscape design and maintenance company, demonstrated fall pruning techniques.

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Maricel Schneider shows members of the High Country Xeriscape Council the area to begin the pruning process.

She said the two keys to successful pruning was keeping in mind what you want the plant to look like next season and going slow.

"I talk to my plants," she said, but she is also aggressive with them. Most will stand up to a major pruning effort and if a plant fails following pruning, consider it a lesson learned, she said.

While it is already fall, she recommends waiting until after the first frost to prune. Pruning now, while the temperatures are still warm during the day, will promote growth that could be killed during the winter, Schneider said.

Among the spots to prune on a plant:

  • Around the bottom to get rid of watersprouts and suckers -- at the same time, clear out the leaf litter at the base, which can invite pests and serve as a breeding place for mold
  • The "parasite" watersprouts and suckers can also appear inside the crown -- they are upright, rapidly growing and often use more energy than they return to the plant
  • Dead, damaged and diseased portions should be removed
  • Cross branching, where branches are rubbing against each other, can result in wounds, decay and notches
  • Remove parts of the plant that are hazards to people and pets
  • Strengthen plant by pruning to reduce the crown, avoid wind damage, increase light penetration and reduce weight

When to prune

The evergreens cedar, cypress, dawn redwood, redwood, giant sequoia, bald cypress and hemlock should be pruned right before new growth begins in the spring.

Other evergreens, such as fir, spruce and pine should be pruned in early spring.

Most deciduous trees should be pruned extensively while dormant- usually in December and January. Light pruning can be done any time, except when it is raining or humid.

Spring-blooming plants should be pruned shortly after the blooming period.

Summer and fall-blooming plants should be pruned in winter.

For more information:

University of Arizona Gila County Extension Service

(928) 474-4160

Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley

(928) 474-6556

Home Depot Gardening Department

(928) 468-0339

Wal-Mart Gardening Department

(928) 474-0029

Or contact any of the landscape services in the area.

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