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What Plants Need to Be Pruned in Winter?

Updated: May 15

February is a popular time to prune bushes, shrubs, and plants, but not all need to be cut back in the winter months. Those that are already budding for Spring shouldn’t be cut back now or they may not flower much. Those that flower and bloom during the Summer and Fall months can be pruned during the winter. Therefore, now is a good time to prune crape (or crepe) myrtles, wisteria, gardenias, lantana, and roses. Let’s go over a little bit about each one and how to best prune them this month if these are a part of your landscaping. If they’re not and you want them to be, let’s discuss your options together. At DSLD Land Management, we love helping create a landscape design that allows you and your family to enjoy your yard. 

The Intended Benefits of PruningWhy prune? Is it only to make the plants have more blooms? Well, pruning these plants has the following intended benefits:

  1. Makes it easier for air and sunlight to reach the plant and allows the plant to make better use of those resources. Pruning encourages new growth, just as spring arrives.

  2. Maintains the structure of the plant so it stays healthy

  3. Makes the plant look good! For many plants, it may increase the amount of blooms the following season. 

  4. Increases air circulation 

  5. Reduce pests and diseases

How to PruneJust as a quick refresher, let’s go over the proper way to prune. Pruning does not necessarily mean shaping them up with an electric hedge trimmer, but rather removing specific branches, stems, or shoots. You can use a pole saw for higher branches, loppers for bigger branches, and hand pruners for smaller stems and branches. Completely cut back all shoots sprouting up out of the ground that are not part of the main body of the bush or trunk. Cut any dead branches or stems. Cut crossing or touching branches that are growing toward the middle instead of out. This will help strengthen the main branches and create a cleaner look. Whatever you do, don’t cut the plant down to the ground unless you consulted an expert or are an expert. 

Crape MyrtlesThey are dormant right now and since they are leafless, it is easy to see where you are cutting and what needs to be pruned. To read more about “crape murder” and how to avoid doing it, check out our previous blog post about it. If you want a more natural, bush-like crape myrtle, you can skip the pruning step, but just know that they might not bloom as much. 

LantanaThese shrubs often attract butterflies and produce a rainbow of delicate blooms. Keep in mind that unpruned lantanas may become large, woody shrubs, which probably isn’t the look you’re going for with this plant. 

GardeniasWhen pruning your gardenias, remove straggly branches and any leftover, dead flowers to ensure it looks its best, in and out of bloom. Some people choose to shape their gardenia bushes, but this will depend on your specific variety and how you want your landscape to look. 

RosesRoses, Knock Out roses, and Double Knock Out roses can be cut back this time of year. Try cutting the overall bush back by about ⅓ of its size and remove any dead stems. Shape up the bush if you desire.  Keep in mind that just because they aren’t performing as well as you’d like doesn’t mean they need to be cut down to the ground. Instead, try feeding and watering them more regularly and prune responsibly. 

WisteriaShorten each shoot to 6 to 8 buds. Careful pruning means gorgeous fragrant blooms in both spring and summer.

Cape PlumbagoThis pretty plant should be pruned in late winter to ensure that it stays compact. Attentive pruning at this time of year will help control its growth and keep the plant from getting too large in the garden. Finally, clean up any fallen leaves (which helps to prevent disease), then mulch and fertilize freshly pruned shrubs to encourage new growth. And if you’re curious about what you shouldn’t prune right now, check out this article from Southern Living. If you want to enhance your landscape with these beautiful plants this upcoming Spring, let’s talk now so we can get them incorporated into your new landscape design with our team at DSLD Land Management in Birmingham, AL. Contact us today so we can get started on your beautiful landscape.

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