As winter grows short, several people have asked about pruning woody shrubs and trees. The question of when to prune shrubs and trees does not have a single answer -- you must know the species of woody plant and its condition. You must know why you are pruning rather than that it is just too big or covering the front of your house. Over-size plants might need a permanent pruning with a shovel or chainsaw.
The first thing to consider this time of the year is when the plant blooms, if flowering is one of the reasons for having the plant. Many of our woody plants produce flower buds at the end of the growing season and these buds open the following spring. The majority of standard azaleas have flower buds in place now and should not be heavily pruned until after they flower unless you don’t mind sacrificing flowers this spring.
Others, such as crape myrtle produce flowers on new growth each year and generally flower in mid-summer or later. This is the reason that “crape murdered” plants still put on some flowers each year when pruned during the winter. Detailed lists of pruning times are available in Bulletin HGIC 1053, Pruning Shrubs on Clemson University’s Home and Garden website, clemson.edu/extension/hgic/.
There are other conditions that affect when you should prune. Red maples are abundant in our area, but if pruned this late in winter they will often bleed sap for a period of time. They are better pruned earlier in the winter.
Many foundation plants that are overly vigorous can be severely pruned at this time. Many of the large-leafed hollies might grow past the roof line of homes. Many camellias grow to a large size too. A technique called “renewal pruning” can be used to reduce their size. “Renewal pruning” is where all stems and branches are pruned back, leaving only stubs. This looks terrible for a short time, but a healthy plant will put out numerous sprouts quickly and fill in the plant. This often appears drastic, but sometimes it is the only way to maintain a desired plant that does not have enough space to grow. It will be necessary to nip the fastest-growing shoots from the middle of the plant to reshape the plant to either a rounded or conical shape as the plant regrows.
Many of our camellia cultivars bloom at different times during the fall, winter and early spring, so it is difficult to pick a certain time for all cultivars. They can bloom in the fall, winter or spring. During this warm winter, many are well on their way to finishing blooming. Pruning or shaping plants should be done after they flower and the new growth will set flower buds on new growth late this summer.
4-H chicken project
If your child loves chickens, sign them up for the Greenwood-Saluda 4-H Pullet Project, which is designed for youth who were ages 5-19 as of Jan. 1. Youth get a choice of a large flock (30 chicks) or a small flock (15 chicks).
Cost is $10 for non-4-H members and free to those who sign up with 4-H. Chicks will be available in early April. Youth will show their chickens at the Saluda Livestock show Sept. 14.
For information or to sign up, contact 4-H agent Lucy Charping at 864-223-3264, 864-993-5317 or email@example.com. Register youth at the Greenwood County or Saluda County Clemson Extension office.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.