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Here are are spring pruning tips for Central Oklahoma

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As we begin to get some warmer weather, it is natural to want to get outside to work in the yard and enjoy the warm spring days. Late winter and early spring are ideal times to prune or finish pruning most trees, shrubs and roses before their spring flush of growth begins.

Plants should not be pruned unless you have a reason to prune them. Sometimes we prune to train a plant so that we will minimize the hazard of limbs interfering with power lines or blocking sight lines at driveways or street corners. Pruning also is used to maintain plant health by removing dead, diseased or damaged branches. Often, pruning is used to restrict growth. Regular pruning can prevent a plant from overgrowing its space in the landscape and prevent the need for drastic pruning in the future.

Another reason to prune is the most common reason, to improve the quality of flowers, foliage and stems. The rule of thumb for pruning spring flowering shrubs such as azaleas, flowering quince and forsythia is to prune these shrubs after the flowers fade, since they produce flower buds on summer growth. Summer flowering shrubs such as butterfly bush, crape myrtle and rose of Sharon, produce their flower buds on spring growth, so they can be pruned in the winter or early spring.

Evergreen trees and shrubs should be pruned before the spring flush of growth. Fruit trees, blackberries and roses also should be pruned now if you have not done so already.

There are exceptions, but the recommendation is to never, remove more than one-third of the branching system of any tree or about two-thirds of a shrub or vine in any year.

When pruning, do not cut flush to the trunk or main stem. Instead, remove limbs with bulges (branch collars) flush to the bulge, not flush with the trunk. Remove limbs without the swelling almost flush with the trunk.

We also get questions here at the OSU Extension Center about the use of wound dressings. Research has shown that wound dressings or tree paint are not essential as previously thought. Dressings actually may harbor disease organisms rather than exclude them. It also has been determined that wound dressing slows the callusing process. A good, clean, unpainted pruning cut normally will callus faster than a painted one.

A good folding saw, sharp hand pruners and leather gloves will be all that is needed for the homeowner to do most of the pruning around the landscape. You may need hedge shears if you are hedging and perhaps long-handled loppers for some jobs. Except for the smallest of branches, the saw always will make a cleaner cut than the hand pruner. Larger limbs that would require a bow saw or chain saw or jobs that require a ladder probably are best left to a professional arborist. When hiring arborists, make sure that they have insurance against personal injury and property damage.

For more information on pruning of trees, shrubs and roses, go to the OSU Extension website at osufacts.okstate.edu and search for Fact Sheet 6409, “Pruning Ornamental Trees, Shrubs and Vines” and 6403 “Roses in Oklahoma.”

Julia Laughlin is Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension agent for horticulture. Email her at Julia.laughlin@okstate.edu .

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