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Mountain Gardening: Prune Woody Plants for Health and Beauty

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Our trees and shrubs have suffered through a long winter, so it’s time to show them some TLC. Lowe’s Mountain region gardening expert shares spring pruning tips.

pruning a twisted branch

By Jodi Torpey

This winter has been especially tough on trees and shrubs in the Mountain region. They’ve been beaten up, beaten down, and battered around by months of harsh weather. Some plants look as if they went 12 rounds with Mother Nature and lost by a knockout.

After taking such a thumping, we need to give our storm-damaged trees and shrubs some TLC. Spring is a good time to look around the landscape and start snipping, clipping, and pruning. Because most trees and shrubs are still dormant, it’s easier to see each plant’s structure and spot potential problems.

pruning twisted branch

First, inspect plants. Look for twisted branches, those that grow toward the center of the woody plant, or branches that grow where they shouldn’t. Use pruning shears, lopping shears, or a pruning saw to make clean cuts back to the main branch.

dead juniper branch

Second, scout for broken, dead, or diseased branches. Evergreens in the Mountain region seem to take the biggest hit when it comes to winter’s high-intensity sunlight and drying winds.

The junipers in my backyard take a pounding in winter. By early spring some of their dry and lifeless branches need to be pruned back to a fork, without leaving any stubs.

branches of red twig dogwood

Third, thin or rejuvenate overgrown shrubs. Shrubs, like red twig dogwood, need some of their canes removed every year. Reinvigorate these shrubs by pruning about one-third of the stems, cut to ground level. Pruning old or overgrown shrubs makes for a healthier and more attractive plant.

dead rose cane

Fourth, examine rose canes. Even hardy roses planted in a protected space can suffer during winter in the Mountain region. If you find dead canes, start at the top of the cane and follow it down to a healthy, green one. Make the cut just above a side bud to direct outward growth.

Those are four of my tips for spring pruning. How do you prioritize pruning tasks in your Mountain region garden?