Pruning Trees and Shrubs Programs Announced

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ApplesPruning is very important for the health, productivity, and appearance of our trees and shrubs. Here in Transylvania County, the high level of rainfall makes diseases, especially fungal diseases, much more common than in other parts of North Carolina. Proper pruning can not only make your trees and shrubs look better but will reduce disease pressure by increasing airflow from thinning excess growth. It is also better for the health of trees and shrubs that have crowded and crossed branches as they can rub against each other in the wind and damage the bark, allowing pathogens to enter the plant.

Timing of Pruning for Different Plants

To maximize the productivity of your tree or shrub, it’s important to understand when it flowers.

The general rule is if it flowers in the spring, prune it after flowering in late spring or early summer. For these springtime bloomers, winter pruning might cut off the freshly formed flower buds and you will not get to enjoy the flowers next year. Plants that should be pruned in the spring after they bloom include azalea, forsythia, deutzia, lilac, viburnum, mock orange, and spirea. If it flowers in the summer or fall, however, now is the time to prune. Examples of plants that should be pruned in the winter include abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, rose of Sharon hibiscus, crape myrtle, and summersweet. Late winter is also the ideal time to prune our fruit trees such a peach, apple, plum, and cherry trees, along with our small berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Pruning dead or diseased wood can be done at any time.

Pruning Fruit Trees

Successful fruit production begins with the right variety selection. Many of us do not want to be climbing up ladders to get our fruit, so we might consider dwarf varieties, which can be pruned to maintain a lower height and still be very productive.

The number-one problem related to pruning fruit trees is that people often do not prune aggressively enough. Most varieties of peach, apple, cherry, and plum put out much more fruiting wood than the tree can use to produce high-quality fruit. Additionally, the excessive amount of growth blocks light and airflow which causes fungal growth, weakening the tree. The primary goal of pruning our fruit trees is to maximize the amount of sunlight hitting all parts of the tree, which will then maximize the fruit production of our trees.

N.C. Cooperative Extension has a wide variety of resources including guides and videos available detailing all the specifics on how to prune your fruit trees and small fruits on our website.

Pruning Ornamentals

Pruning your landscape plants properly will increase the productivity, beauty, and longevity of the investment you’ve made in your landscaping. This is especially true here in Transylvania County, where our high level of rainfall can easily cause fungal issues for overcrowded and weakened plants.

Selecting the right plant for the right place means little to no pruning could be necessary for your landscape plants. The right plant in the right place means your plant’s maximum size will be appropriate for the space you’ve given it. It will also ensure that the plants receive the best amount of sunlight and can tolerate seasonal fluctuations in weather and rainfall.

You can find “the right plant for the right place” at the Extension Gardener Tool Box. There, you’ll be able to select plants based on how tall it will grow, how much sunlight it needs, the colors of its flowers, what kind of pollinators it will attract, and many other criteria.

Topping Trees

Topping a tree is when the upper growth of a tree is indiscriminately and severely cut back. This is generally done either to keep branches from coming into contact with power lines or to open up a section of the canopy in order to create long-range views. In any case, topping trees is not recommended for a variety of reasons. The tree will generally grow back to its original height in a period of two years after topping, but it will be far less attractive and very susceptible to disease. This can sometimes create a dangerous situation where diseased trees pose the risk of falling on homes or causing other property damage.

We encourage folks in this situation to speak with a certified arborist and consider enjoying a winter view, pruning the tree properly, or replacing the plant with a suitable alternative that will not cause problems.

More Information

N.C. Cooperative Extension of Transylvania County will be hosting two workshops on pruning with more to come. One will be via Zoom and the other will be in person at Gaia Herbs. We will focus on fruit trees for now, but welcome any questions you might have about your landscape plants.

Thursday, January 28, 2021, at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom (this class is only via Zoom): Home pruning of Fruit trees. A short demonstration of how to prune a few examples of apple, peach, and Asian pear trees. Visit our Eventbrite page to register for this Zoom meeting.

Friday, January 29, 2021, at 1 p.m., in-person at Gaia Herbs (masks required, limit 20 people): We’ll gain mastery of our pruning techniques with a hands-on demonstration and practice with the apple and pear trees at Gaia Herbs.  Visit our Eventbrite page to register for this event.

For further information or to register for either (or both) of our classes email Bart Renneror call 828-884-3109.