Many shrubs can benefit from a little pruning. Choosing what to prune to maintain a plant’s natural look can sometimes be a challenge. Get a few tips on pruning shrubs with cane type growth from UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
Please join us for the Persimmon Field Day on Friday, October 20th, from 8:30 – 11:30AM at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center (NFREC), located at 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL.
This is a free field day on growing persimmons in North Florida! Attendees will be able to visit the persimmon grove to see how trees are grown, maintained, and harvested as well as sample the different persimmon varieties grown at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center in Quincy. Light refreshments will be provided. Space is limited, so please register using the link below or by calling 850-875-7255 to reserve your spot!
(All Times Eastern Standard)
8:30-8:45 AM – Registration
8:45-9:00 AM – Welcome and Introduction, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:05 AM – Opening Remarks, Dr. Dean Pringle, Center Director, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:35 AM – Introduction to Persimmon Fruit, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center and Dr. Ali Sarkhosh, Associate Professor, UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences
9:45-10:00 AM – Load Trolley and Travel to Persimmon Grove at UF/IFAS NFREC
10:00-11:00 AM – Persimmon Grove Walk and Talk (Persimmon Fruit Tasting and Open Discussion in the Field)
11:00-11:15 AM – Load Trolley and Travel Back to NFREC Conference Room
11:15 AM – Adjourn
The University of Florida is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. For disability accommodations such as sign language interpreters and listening devices, please contact KeAndre Leaks, (email@example.com, 850-875- 7150) at least 2 weeks in advance. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.
Anyone can prune but not everyone prunes correctly. In order to prune correctly, you need to understand how plants respond to pruning.
When a pruning cut is made on a stem or limb, new growth will develop just a few inches below the cut. This is because of a hormone that is produced in the terminal bud (the bud at the end of a branch or twig). This hormone prevents dormant buds located directly below the terminal bud from growing. So, when you routinely shear plants, a lot of dense, new growth will be produced near the outer portions of the plant. This eventually results in less light reaching the interior portions of the plant, foliage within the canopy becomes sparse and the plant appears stemmy or hollow.
Thinning generally is a better method of pruning most shrubs. Thinning is cutting branches back to a lateral branch, a lateral bud or the main trunk. Basically, a thinning cut is the complete removal of a branch or stem for the purpose of thinning or opening up the plant. Thinning encourages new growth within the interior portions of the plant, reduces size and provides a fuller, more natural looking plant compared to plants that are routinely sheared.
Keep in mind the desired results when pruning. If you plant a row of shrubs that will serve as a hedge or screen, begin pruning them the same year that you plant. Many times, people wait several years before pruning a newly planted hedge Doing so can result in little growth at the base of the plants, which means a privacy hedge that can be seen through. Because of the fact that new growth on plants only occurs a few inches below the cut, you should begin pruning early to encourage a compact growth habit.
Pruning time varies among plants. Plants that are not grown for their showy flowers such as holly, boxwood and privet can be pruned during late winter, spring and summer months. Avoid pruning during fall or early winter because the new, tender growth produced as a result of pruning will be subject to cold injury.
Plants that bloom before May such as azaleas, forsythia, spirea and climbing roses should be pruned shortly after they bloom. It is best to avoid pruning plants in this category later than July because they set flower buds in the fall.
Plants that bloom after May such as crape myrtle, gardenia, bush roses and abelia can be pruned just prior to spring growth in late February or early March.
Avoid severely pruning junipers, cedar, arborvitae and other narrow-leaf evergreen plants because it may cause them to die outright.
Recently our area has experienced multiple severe wind events. You may have noticed some light to moderate damage to some of the trees in your yard. You may have even experienced severe damage or a complete failure of a tree on your or a neighbor’s property. While a complete failure or severe damage pose obvious hazards and need removal, it is the more minor to moderate damage that often raises questions on how to address the issue. Hanging broken branches are often called “Hangers” in forestry or tree care circles. These are often smaller to mid-sized branches which have partially broken off but are still lodged in the tree. After several weeks to a month the foliage starts to die and turn brown, and these “hangers” become obvious in trees that received damage. How do you assess these and when should you get a professional involved? Do they pose a potential health issue if not removed?
These broken limbs are becoming quite noticeable as they die and turn brown. It is important to make good decisions on how to handle these hanging dead branches and how to maintain your tree. Often these hangers are more unsightly than anything else, especially if they are small. Larger ones may pose a risk of damage or injury if they are located over a structure or may fall in an area frequented by people. Most of these hangers will break and dislodge over time, especially in wind events. You should consider the risk posed by the hanging limb, the difficulty and cost of addressing it, and the risk posed by the limb falling. For trees that got noticeable damage with several larger limbs broken, having some repair and rejuvenation pruning done is often good for tree health. You may be able to address some issues yourself if you are handy with a pole pruner and the broken limb is in reach. Anyone attempting even light tree work should be aware of risks posed by falling limbs and use of pole saws. Remember to never attempt to climb trees yourself or perform tree trimming from a ladder or height, as this is fundamentally unsafe. Even limbs which may be safely reached from the ground with a pole pruner can pose risks of injury. If you are attempting to remove some of these hangers with a pole pruner, be very cautious and use good safety techniques. You need to make sure the branch has a landing zone, and you are well clear of it when using a pole saw or pruner. Be aware of vines and other entanglements, and do not work around or within the right of way of electrical or other lines. Larger limbs and those not reachable from the ground should be considered outside the scope of homeowners and left to professionals.
Here is a quick reference guide for how to size up any broken or damaged limbs in your tree and address the situation
- Small branches and branch tips with a diameter of the broken branch is 1 inch or less and the branch is hanging or lodged. These size hangers pose little risk and are mostly unsightly. They should fall out of the tree on their own over time. These may be trimmed out slightly behind the break of those within reach of a pole pruner.
- Small to Medium branches-1-3 inches in diameter. The branch has partially broken or has completely broken and is lodged in another branch. Branches this size can do some light to moderate damage if they fall on a roof, fence, or other structure. If the branch overhangs areas where people or pets frequent it could cause injuries if it fails. If the branch does not pose a hazard or danger it should dislodge on its own over time. Consider removing these if they pose a risk. They can be removed from the ground with a pole pruner or pole saw but be very cautious as branches this size can easily injure someone that is in the fall zone. Consult a professional if a lift or climbing is required.
- Large Canopy Branches 3 inches and larger. These are significant branches and can hold a significant amount of weight. If they are partially broken, hung, or lodged in the tree they may come out at any time and do significant damage or cause injury. These branches are beyond the tools and scope of homeowners, and the damage may require some recovery pruning to keep the tree healthy. Consult with a professional and consider having the damage removed and tree properly trimmed.
- Main Branch and Trunk Failures- This is significant damage to the tree which can make it unsound or susceptible to disease in the future. If large main branches have failed, the top has completely failed, or part of the trunk has cracked or split from the damage; major damage has occurred and the tree may not recover. If your tree has suffered this level of damage consult a professional with a tree service and have a certified arborist examine the tree.
It can be hard to tell from the ground what level of damage a tree sustained until the brown foliage appears past the break. Once you can identify what type of damage occurred you can better determine what action is needed. For small branches it may be best just to wait for them to come out naturally or prune them out if this can be done safely with a pole pruner. For larger branches or more severe damage a professional is the best bet. For those hangers that pose a risk to structures or people in an area removal is best, as these could fall at any time and cause damage or injury. Remember never to attempt tree work yourself especially if it involves climbing or working from heights. You can find a certified arborist at www.treesaregood.org to address large limbs and significant damage. A good arborist can help you rehabilitate a tree that has had only moderate damage from a storm. If you are unsure of where to start with a tree that has wind damage, consult your local extension office for some advice.
It is the time of year when we get reminded that we have just entered Hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast. Ideally you will have already done your tree maintenance and health checks around your home, but if you have not you can still get a tree care professional out to look at your trees. Maintaining your trees is an important part of storm preparedness. Keeping trees trimmed and in good health ensures that tree risks are minimized during the storm season. Even with proper pruning and maintenance some trees pose a risk due to location, poor structure, or disease. Having a professional assess your tree/trees and come up with a maintenance plan can help you avoid costly damage and keep your tree in good condition.
Trees are a major part of our landscape on the Gulf Coast, especially in our urban areas. They provide so many benefits to the landscape and are often the centerpiece of yards and parks in our urban areas. Without trees we lose the shade and cooling benefits a tree provides, have less habitat for birds and other wildlife, and loose aesthetic values that come with a majestic tree. Trees take a long time to grow and develop as well, so a large well-developed tree is not easily replaced. This naturally leads to a question many people find themselves facing. How do I preserve trees I want but minimize risk to my home and structures? The answer to this question is to assess the condition of the tree, the risk it may pose, and decide on the proper tree maintenance accordingly.
Lots of things go into determining what to do with a tree. The first thing to consider is location of the tree and its limbs. If the tree and its limbs are close to your home, you must consider how to maintain the tree in such a way that risks are minimized. If the tree has structural and/or health problems, you must factor in how these conditions affect the stability and health of a tree. The tree species also determines how it will need to be maintained as well as how stable it is in a wind event. All of these factors play into how to maintain the trees on your landscape, or if the tree poses an unacceptable risk, when to remove trees that may be in decline or present a hazard.
The best course of action is to consult with a tree care professional and develop a tree maintenance plan. Make sure you select a tree care professional with good qualifications, background, and insurance. The top professional credential in tree care is the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Certified Arborist. You can search for a Certified Arborist in your area on the ISA Website, Find an Arborist (treesaregood.org). For trees that you are concerned about from a risk perspective consider getting a Tree Risk Assessment. Certain Certified Arborists carry a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification which is a specialty qualification specifically to assess the risk a tree poses. By having your trees examined by an arborist you can make an informed decision on maintaining your landscape trees. For trees that are in good health and are species that do well in high winds, proper maintenance and pruning will assist in keeping the tree in good condition. For trees with health or structural problems or that are species that do poorly in high winds, removal may be needed.
There is no one size fits all solution to tree maintenance and tree risk, but with proper assessment and tree care you can be confident you are making the correct decision. Putting off tree care and assessment is when problems occur. Consulting with an arborist and developing a tree care plan with clear timelines and practices is your best option to maintain your trees and avoid issues with high-risk trees. As painful as it may be, for high-risk trees removal and replacement may be the best option. By consulting with a tree care professional, such as an arborist, you can know your tree conditions and the associated risks and options. With this information in hand, you can make well informed decisions that match your tree health and risk management goals.
References and Further Reading:
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions Webpage: Preparing Trees For Hurricanes Link: Preparing Trees for Hurricanes – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (ufl.edu)
For Information on Recognizing Tree Health and Risk Issues:
McLean, D.C., A.K. Koeser, R.J. Northrop, and G. Hasing Is My Tree Safe? Recognizing Conditions That Increase The Likelihood of Tree Failure Publication# ENH1246 Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences ENH1246/EP507: Is my tree safe? Recognizing Conditions that Increase the Likelihood of Tree Failure (ufl.edu)
For information on tree species and their stability in wind:
Dureya, M.L. and E. Kampf Selecting Coastal Plain Species for Wind Resistance PUBLICATION #FOR119 Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences FOR119/FR174: Selecting Coastal Plain Species for Wind Resistance (ufl.edu)
Pruning is a much needed yet often misunderstood practice. This is perfectly understandable as most people look at a tree and wonder which branches need to be cut, why they need to be cut, and what time of year is appropriate to do so. Confusion is understandable, but a better grasp on a few key concepts will clear everything up.
Before you begin to look into anything else, it is important to understand the structure of a tree. For the purposes of pruning, we’ll focus on roots, and stems. The roots of a tree anchor it to the ground providing water and nutrition to the main stems of the tree. Roots and stems in any plant are a delicate balance. Cutting stem tissue will affect roots so don’t remove too much in a single session. A good rule of thumb is to not take more than 1/3 of the stem tissue present. The next concept is the natural shape of the tree you want to trim. Most have one dominant leader with supporting branches forming the canopy. In these cases, remove competing leaders to keep the canopy full and well-shaped. Other trees such as crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) are multi-stemmed with 2-3 codominant leaders. Prune away any challengers to your main leaders while keeping the “vase” shape for which these trees are known. With this in mind, it’s time to decide which stems to remove.
What to Cut
Safety and tree health are the focus as a homeowner decides which stems need pruning. When a branch is to be removed, make your cut It is important to keep the branch collar in mind when making your cuts. This collar is denoted as a ring of tissue at the connection of branch and trunk. Cut as closely as possible without disrupting this tissue. Any dead, diseased, and damaged branches are the first needing cut. They take resources from the healthy branches and are unsightly. Next, look for any crossing limbs. These scrape against one another as the wind blows and risk destroying bark tissue making the tree susceptible to disease. Focus next on structural issues or tree shape. Remove challenges to the leaders as outlined in the previous paragraph. Safety concerns will be your next focus. Look for bark inclusions which are weak connections indicated with a “V” shaped fork between limbs which may fail in high wind. If found, consult a certified arborist as pruning may not be your only option. Finally, eliminate lower limbs impeding walkways and any drooping from their own weight. This is also when species specific pruning is prudent to promote flowering or fruiting.
When to Cut
Now that we know what to prune, when is it prudent to do so? This cycle will vary based on quality of stock from the nursery, age of the tree, growth rate, and how prone they are to decay. In Florida, this is on average every three years. Keep in mind the “May rule” when considering what time of year to prune. Any plant blooming prior to May should be pruned once flowering has ceased, but no later than July. Any plant blooming after May should be pruned around February or March at the latest.
Pruning is an important practice for keeping your trees healthy and ensuring safety. With some knowledge you’ll find it is not the mystery you may have thought it to be. For more information on pruning, please see these IFAS documents, or contact local extension agent for additional information on this and any topic regarding your gardens and more.