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When’s the best time to prune trees?

Pruning deciduous trees and shrubs in the winter, when plants are dormant, reveals problem areas that can lead to health and safety issues.
Pruning deciduous trees and shrubs in the winter, when plants are dormant, reveals problem areas that can lead to health and safety issues.

Q: When is the best time of year to prune my plum tree?

Ann M., Atascadero

A: Pruning can be done throughout the year, depending on the plant and the desired result.

However, pruning deciduous trees and shrubs during winter dormancy is advantageous because it’s easier to see what needs to be removed once the leaves have fallen. It’s also nice to get things under control before the fresh burst of growth in spring.

Bare plants reveal problem areas that may compromise plant health or create safety issues.

Use pruning as an opportunity to remove branches that are diseased or those that rub against each other, creating gateways for disease and pests. Also look out for branches clustered too densely in the center to allow sunlight and air circulation.

For safety, remove dead branches from trees to keep them from breaking off and causing property damage or personal injury.

Regular winter pruning of fruit-bearing and flowering trees and shrubs encourages strong crop and flower production because more energy can be directed to the remaining fruit and flower buds when dormancy breaks.

Clearing dense areas in the center of the plant allows sun to reach fruit at the center of the tree aiding in the ripening process.

Before pruning, determine whether your plant fruits or flowers on old wood versus new wood and prune accordingly.

Knowing what to prune in winter is only part of the task at hand. Proper pruning technique is vital to a plant’s health, appearance and crop production.

Always cut back to a part of the plant that will continue to grow and only use sharp, clean tools.

Pruning workshop

To learn more about proper winter pruning, join the Master Gardeners for a free Advice to Grow By workshop, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo.

The workshop, which will include a pruning demonstration, focuses on selecting, planting and caring for bare-root trees. In the case of inclement weather, the workshop will be moved to the auditorium adjacent to the parking lot.

Got a gardening question?

In San Luis Obispo, call 805-781-5939; Arroyo Grande, 805-473-7190, and Templeton, 805-434-4105. Visit us at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo/ or email us at anrmgslo@ucanr.edu. Follow us on Instagram at slo_mgs and like us on Facebook. Informative garden workshops are held the third Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to noon at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo. Garden docents are available after the workshop until 1 p.m. To request a tour of the garden, call 805-781-5939.