By Marco T. Fonseca
University of Georgia
Proper punning produces landscapes with trees and shrubs that look natural and accentuate architectural designs. Most homeowners are primarily interested in getting the most flowers and maintaining the size and shape of their trees and shrubs. But this requires a basic understanding of how plants grow and flower.
For example, forsythias and azaleas set flowers during the previous summer, so prune them after they flower. If you prune now, you're removing flowers or buds waiting to open.
The proper pruning technique for these plants, after they bloom, is called thinning. Thinning will encourage a balance growth that allows light to penetrate and air to move inside the plant canopy. Plants with open canopies have more flowers and fewer diseases.
Crape myrtlesCrape myrtles, like most plants that flower in the summer, set flowers on the current season's growth. Prune these plants in late winter to early spring.
Assuming there are no more frosts left this winter and you haven't already done it, now would be the best time to prune crape myrtles.
Roses seem to like to be pruned. Look for buds with five leaflets pointing toward the outside of the canopy -- at the axis of this compound leaf is the flower bud. So, the more often you prune, the more flowers you'll have.
In the home orchard, pruning will help you establish and maintain productive trees. One commercial muscadine grower told me that in the year after she put some pruning coaching to work on her muscadines, she had "tons of grapes." Proper pruning can make a huge difference in yields.
Fruit plantsMuscadines can be pruned anytime they're dormant. Vines pruned in late winter to early spring are less likely to be damaged by cold. If you let grape vines go unpruned, they tend to produce heavily every other year, but the grapes will be inferior.
Fruit tress must be trained in the early years to develop a productive scaffold. Once the trees mature, prune to increase production and to keep the overall tree vigorous.
Pruning fruit trees is an art and a science. Proper pruning will assure that the trees will stay healthy while they produce plenty of fruit.
To learn more about pruning fruit and landscape plants, contact the county office of the University of Georgia Extension Service.
(Marco Fonseca is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist and the state Master Gardener program coordinator with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)