What are the benefits of winter pruning

What are the benefits of winter pruning?
Dawn S. Atascadero
Kim McCue Master Gardener
Pruning can actually be done throughout the year, depending on the plant and the
desired result. However, pruning deciduous trees and shrubs during winter dormancy is
advantageous because it’s just plain easier to see what needs to be removed once the
leaves have fallen and it’s nice to get things under control before the fresh burst of
growth in spring.
Bare plants reveal problem areas that may compromise plant health or create safety
issues. Use this opportunity to remove branches that are diseased, too dense in the
center to allow sunlight and air circulation, or those that rub against each other creating
gateways for disease and pests. For safety, remove dead branches from trees to keep
them from breaking off and causing property damage or personal injury.
Regular winter pruning of fruit bearing and flowering trees and shrubs encourages
strong crop and flower production because more energy can be directed to the
remaining fruit and flower buds when dormancy breaks. Clearing dense areas in the
center of the plant allows sun to reach fruit at the center of the tree aiding in the
ripening process. Before pruning, however, determine whether your plant fruits or
flowers on old wood versus new wood and prune accordingly.
Knowing what to prune in winter is only part of the task at hand; proper pruning
technique is vital to a plant’s health, appearance and/or crop production. Always cut
back to a part of the plant that will continue to grow and only use sharp, clean tools. To
learn more about proper winter pruning, please join the Master Gardeners for a free
Advice to Grow By workshop this Saturday, January 19th, from 10:00 a.m. until noon. The
discussion will be held in the Garden of the Seven Sisters, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis
Obispo. The topic is selecting, planting and caring for bare root trees and will include a
pruning demonstration.