How Constant Trimming is Hurting Your Trees and Shrubs
Pruning is important for training the plant; maintaining plant health; improving the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage, or stems; and restricting growth. Homeowners everywhere turn their attention to the yard when spring arrives. It seems to be an instinct humans have, the need to whip your garden or landscaping into shape before summer arrives. For the shrubs and trees surrounding your house, this may not be the best time to go hacking away.
While there is a proper time for cutting back, pruning at the wrong time of year can cause severe damage, even death. At the least, improper pruning can ruin the future shape of your bushes and trees. Did you know that more landscaping plants die every year due to improper pruning and neglect than the number lost to pests and disease? Unlike someone’s hair, a bad cut will not always fill back in overtime.
The damage may not be apparent for several years. It can also swiftly weaken the immune system, bringing on attacks by pests and disease. Well maintained plants for desert landscaping have a strong immune system and a natural shape that is easily depleted by the activities of humans.
Why do we practice pruning?
If you’re assuming that clipping, trimming, and thinning is just what you do to have landscaping that looks cared for and nicely groomed, you couldn’t be more wrong. There are only four reasons anyone should ever make cuts on shrubs and trees.
- To train the plant
- To maintain plant health
- To improve the quality of foliage, flowers, fruit or stems
- To restrict plant growth
Heavy shearing to reduce the size of shrubs and trees shouldn’t be necessary if you planned for the full growth of the plant. Proper spacing allows for the plant to grow to its full height and width without the need for constant pruning and trimming. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, this is not how the landscape was planted. While trimming and shearing may make it easier to back out of the driveway, harsh shearing lessens the length of any plant’s life.
What About Trimming Trees?
In trees, this practice is called ‘topping’. It is never okay to top a tree, though in cases like Crape Myrtles, this is done on an annual basis to produce bigger blooms. Not only can the tree not support the weight of these massive blooms on the young branches, but the excessive new shoots growth at the cut make for one ugly tree in the future. Left to Nature’s devices, these ornamental small trees have a very lovely shape and bloom quite nicely.
Topping in other types of trees should never be done. A rule of thumb for the trees in your yard is that deciduous trees should be trimmed or thinned in winter and never by more than one-third of the crown size. Evergreens should only be pruned after the new growth has hardened off in early summer.
When in doubt – don’t prune or shear. If you’re unsure of how or when to do any trimming for the best results, it would be wise to call in the experts, a landscaper or your local nursery will have the experience to know when it’s the right time to prune any tree or shrub that thrives in our climate.