Fall pruning tips
Radio interview source: Dennis Patton, Extension Horticulture Agent, Kansas State University
It's tempting to prune up the tree branches, but it's better to just leave them alone for now
Dennis Patton is an extension horticulture agent at Kansas State University. He says after the leaves fall off a tree or shrub, you can easily see its structural flaws such as rubbing branches and awkward shapes. This would seem to be a good time to prune, since the tree is going dormant. However, Patton says that pruning creates an injury.
"The goal behind pruning is to have that wound seal over as quickly as possible. And when that plant's going into dormancy, it's not growing, so the plant over the winter months doesn't have the capability to close off that injury," says Patton. "Thus, the plant could be potentially set up to have more winter kill, or die back if we have a really harsh winter."
The best time to prune deciduous plants, those that lose their leaves, is late-winter or early-spring as they're breaking dormancy. It's a time of rapid growth, and the plants can quickly close off a wound to avoid entrance by insects and disease. There are exceptions. Patton says if you see limbs that are hazardous, dead, damaged or diseased, it's okay to cut them out now.
Is there anything else you can prune in the fall?
"I think most plants should just be left in the natural over the winter months for some looks, for some beauty," says Patton. "Here again, if it's a hazardous plant I'd cut it back. But pretty much any of your shrubs, roses, anything like that, we don't want to do a lot of pruning in the fall because we want that winter protection, we don't that cut that's going to more likely cause winter kill."
However, if there are diseased plants, it's best to cut off and discard them now so the new plants aren't infected next year.
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