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Why Prune During Winter?

Winter Pruning 

Why Prune Shrubs & Trees Primarily During Winter?

When winter arrives, most people zone out as far as their landscape is concerned. There’s nothing wrong with that, specifically because there’s not much happening in your landscape. Flowers aren’t blooming, shrubs & trees aren’t growing, and overall there’s very little happening. However, there is one to-do item that is worth discussing when it comes to your winter landscape. “Should you perform any winter pruning on your shrubs & trees?” 

As with many things in your landscape, our answer would be “it depends.” Everyone has different flowers, shrubs, trees, topography, sun vs shade, precipitation, etc.. Therefore, each of our clients has different needs for their landscape, thus they are each case-by-case. What we do know for each landscape is that based on what flowers, shrubs & trees it has. Correspondingly, that dictates what generally needs to be done during winter.  


Therefore, we’ll provide some examples of what to look for when you consider to winter prune. Let’s begin with flowers. They are planted in spring/summer and those should be pulled out and thrown away. Flowers are “annual” and only live a one-year life-cycle. Consequently there’s no use keeping them around over winter. We recommend removing them as soon as they’re not flowering anymore, maybe late summer into fall. 

For shrubs, more expertise is required to decide what to prune and how much. A majority of shrubs will benefit from pruning anywhere between 15% and 50% of their overall growth. In our research & experience, a heavy winter prune is generally better than a light or no winter pruning. We define a “light” pruning as 10% or less removed. A “heavy” prune is 15% to 50% (or more) being removed during the winter prune. 

10% Or Less Pruning Every Winter

Firstly, here are some shrubs that could benefit from a light pruning during winter. Photinia, Juniper, Euonymus, Red Yucca and Crape Myrtle. On average, pruning more than 10% of these shrubs may damage them in the long-run. One tree that fits this category is the Raywood Ash. If the Raywood has any dead branches, winter is the right time to prune them out. 

15% to 50% Pruning Every Winter

Secondly, here are some shrubs that could benefit from a heavy pruning during winter. Photinia, Juniper, Euonymus, Red Yucca, Crape Myrtle, Rose Bush, Butterfly Bush, Russian Sage, Autumn Sage, Smoke Tree Bush, Nandina, Barberry, Chaste Tree, Spirea, Red Hot Poker and Rock Rose. How your shrubs appear during growing season may subsequently be a result of winter pruning. Therefore, it’s important to hire a company who knows how to winter prune.  

Furthermore, trees that fit in this category are as follows. The Autumn Maple Blaze, Modesto Ash, Arizona Ash, Purple Leaf Plum, Eastern Redbud and Quaking Aspen. These require anywhere from 10% to 20% depending on its growth the previous season(s). For each of these trees, pruning out dead wood during winter as well. 

Do Not Prune During Winter

Thirdly, here are some shrubs that could benefit from zero pruning (being left alone) during winter. Mugo Pine, Alberta Spruce and Globe Blue Spruce. Trimming these during winter will unquestionably harm them and cause long-term damage. Here are a few trees that fit here. Arizona Cypress, Deodar Cedar and Colorado Blue Spruce. If you observe dead branches in any of these trees, prune them during winter. 

We didn’t list every plant we could have. However, we nonetheless listed some of the most common & popular shrubs & trees in Greater Prescott. If you’re interested specifically in said plant, then please call our office. 

In Closing

Lastly, winter pruning is very important to overall plant health. Otherwise they don’t grow as optimally as they could. One easy way to gauge their health is to assess them in the middle of the high-growth season. They’ll typically look their best during this time. If they don’t look great, then winter pruning might need to be done differently. For the best results, have an experienced company perform your winter pruning. You’ll be so happy you did with growing season rolls around. 


Read about the Arizona Ash here

Lastly, we highly recommend Watter’s Garden Center, Mortimer Nursery, or Prescott Valley Nursery as great places to both purchase shrubs & trees but to also ask questions because these are the experts.