2817 - 47th Street • Moline, IL 61265 (309) 762-6226

For most shrubs and trees, pruning is a necessary task that not only tidies their appearance but also encourages new growth and maintains their overall health. Many gardeners are fearful of pulling out their shears and cutting their beloved plants–and for good reasons. Depending on the plant and the time of year, pruning can sometimes do more harm than good. With our Illinois pruning calendar, you can be confident in your pruning choices this spring, and every other season!


Pruning in Late Winter

Before you begin, proper pruning should always start with clean, disinfected, and recently sharpened garden shears. This helps prevent any diseases from spreading and ensures the health of your plants. While many fruit trees don’t require annual pruning (if they’re properly trained), they can benefit from some trimming in their younger years. The best time to prune them is while the tree is still dormant, in late winter or early spring. Remove any dead wood or stray, weak branches that hinder fruiting. Be careful not to prune any fruit trees that bloom on last year’s wood, like apples or cherries.

Summer-blooming shrubs, like Viburnum, Rose of Sharon, and Potentilla, set their buds on new wood in the spring. Encourage new growth and branching by pruning these shrubs in late winter. Summer is upon us, and with the new growth on these popular shrubs, you’ll be enjoying plenty of blooms soon enough if not already!




Spring Pruning

For property owners who like to revitalize your homes in the name of spring cleaning, you’re likely already thinking of ways to extend this urge outside your homes and into your garden. While spring is a great time to tidy the yard and prune your plants, there are some things to remember.

Spring-blooming shrubs, like Lilacs, Azaleas, Forsythia, and Rhododendrons, flower on last year’s wood. This means their blooming buds are set well in advance, during the summer of the previous year. If you prune them too early, you’ll likely end up removing good buds and losing out on many of this year’s flowers. The best time to prune these shrubs is later in the spring, only after their flowers have faded and before they start setting their buds for the next year.

While sap-producing trees, like maple and birch, can be pruned in the winter, they’ll end up “bleeding” a lot of sap at that time. While it’s harmless to the tree, many people opt for a late spring or early summer pruning to avoid the mess. Wait until the leaves are fully opened, and be careful not to remove more than a quarter of them.

Now that it’s early in the summer, it’s time to return to your fruit trees; this can also be done in the late spring. One of the biggest problems with any fruit tree is when they over-produce, leading to an abundance of small, poor fruits. By plucking some fruits, you’ll divert more sunlight, energy, and nutrients to the remaining ones, improving their quality.




Summer Pruning

Many will argue that summer isn’t a great time to prune your precious trees and shrubs. The idea is that it’s much safer to prune while plants are dormant to prevent the risk of contracting diseases from the open wounds. While these concerns are valid, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Plants from the prunus family, such as plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds, should only be pruned during the summer. The biggest threat to these trees is called Silver leaf, a fungal disease that spreads through spores in the air from late fall to spring. Summer pruning of these trees massively decreases the risk of it being infected by one of these spores!

While major pruning should be kept for other seasons, routine trimming is usually fairly safe to do in the summer. Dead or diseased wood will pose more of a threat to your landscape than a few small cuts. Near the end of summer, cut the stems of spent flowers to encourage re-blooming.




Fall Pruning

After the leaves have fallen and all that’s left is the skeleton of your tree, it may seem like the perfect time to prune away the problem branches. However, this can actually be very damaging to your tree. Although it’s tempting to pick up your shears, you’re better off focusing on other chores instead.

Pruning deciduous trees stimulates new growth, especially if the task is followed by a few warmer days. This causes the tree to use valuable resources on growth at a time when it should be preparing for dormancy. Trees need these energy and nutrient stores to be self-sufficient throughout the winter when their roots aren’t able to supply any more.

Like everything else when it comes to gardening, there’s always an exception to the rule. It’s actually recommended that Elm trees be pruned in the fall, as they’re susceptible to the Dutch Elm disease. The Elm Bark beetle, which carries the disease, is most active during the spring and summer months, where it infects trees through open wounds. Be sure to properly dispose of your Elm tree pruning waste by taking it to your local landfill, burying it, or burning it. This is very important as it helps keep Dutch Elm disease under control.


meyer CTA


No one wants to see stray, feeble, or dead branches detracting from their marvelous flowers and foliage, or worse yet, getting caught in power lines. Use these helpful tips to encourage healthy plants, bountiful blooms, and a beautiful garden aesthetic by pruning the right way, at the right time.