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Don’t prune just because everyone else is

By Mark Martin

For the Salisbury Post

Let’s talk about pruning plants.

Every November I begin to receive calls from citizens asking me this question, “Is it time?”

“Time for what,” I ask.

“Time to prune my trees.”

I always respond, “It depends.” What kind of plant are you pruning? For what reason are you wanting to prune? Do you know how to prune properly?

The number one question I receive is, “When can I top my crape myrtles?” My answer is never! There are many reasons to prune your plants, but remember, trees are not shrubs and topping depletes a tree of precious energy, forms weak branch unions and can cause openings for disease.

“It depends.” Mid- to late February is a good time to prune trees, if needed.

Some plants have already set their bloom for this year. If you prune them, you’re just cutting off that bloom. Wait until after they bloom to prune. Camilla, azalea, spirea, forsythia, quince, magnolia are some examples.

Light pruning or removing dead wood can be done almost any time. Sometimes people want to prune to make the plant look pretty, but if the plant suffers and dies a few months later, was it worth it?

Many landscape tasks are seasonal, but may not need to be accomplished every year. Pruning is an art. It may take years to complete proper pruning of a plant. Educate yourself, become a Master Gardener or find some great educational media.

“It depends.” Just because your neighbors are pruning or the business down the street has cut it plants doesn’t mean “It’s time.” The Arbor Day Foundation, International Society of Arboriculture, North Carolina Urban Forest Council and local Cooperative Extension services are great resources. Prune because it’s needed, not because “It’s time.”

https://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu/, https://www.arborday.org/, www.ncufc.org/, https://www.isa-arbor.com/

Mark Martin s the city of Salisbury ISA Arborist

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