Most trees are pruned in the winter when they are dormant. There are, however, certain flowering trees that need pruning during the spring and summer months.
Pruning to Promote Flowering
Pruning flowering trees can help promote better and more abundant flowers. Pruning too early or too late can cut away this year's flowering wood. Of course, it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice flowering and do a more drastic pruning, such as to save a diseased or damaged tree.
Spring Flowering Trees
Trees such as dogwood, redbud, flowering crabapple and flowering cherries flower on year-old wood. These trees should be pruned as soon as they have finished blooming to give new wood plenty of growing time. If you must prune later in the spring or early summer, cut away as little wood as possible to save as many blooms as you can.
Mid-to-late Summer Flowering Trees
Summer flowering trees usually bloom on new growth. These trees, such as Catalpa, tree lilacs, American smoketree, some magnolias and linden trees, should be pruned in early spring once all danger of frost has passed. You can also prune these trees in the winter.
Pruning Techniques for Flowering Trees
There are several pruning techniques you can use, depending on your desired final result.
- Thinning - Overcrowded growth on trees can block air circulation and invite disease and injury. Thinning involves removing branches back to a trunk, main branch, or the soil line to open up the tree canopy or remove suckers. Water sprouts, those flimsy shoots that grow straight up off a branch, should always be removed.
- Heading Back - Cutting back branches to a healthy bud or lateral branch is called heading back. Always cut about 1/4 inch above a lateral branch or active bud and never leave a stub. Heading back is often used to control the size of trees, especially dwarf trees.
- Shaping - Young trees need to be carefully pruned to encourage a strong central leader trunk and encourage outward-facing buds to grow into branches. Lateral branches are stronger than vertical branches, so leave as many laterals as you can and remove all suckers and water sprouts.
- Survival Pruning - If your flowering tree has suffered broken branches from an act of nature or accident, prune those immediately to prevent further damage, especially from insects and disease. After a storm, such as a hurricane, you may have to drastically prune the tree to save it, in some cases cutting off the entire canopy and allowing it to come back from the trunk.
If you are not able to or comfortable with pruning, call your local tree service company like Green Shadow Tree Service LLC to ensure your flowering trees are properly cared for during the spring and summer months.