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Arkansas Pruning in the Fall? Be Selective!

Enhance the beauty of your landscape with proper pruning of your hedges, trees and shrubs, however, do your homework. Improper pruning can significantly reduce your landscape’s potential. Pruning your outdoor plants should be done when the temperatures are right. Northwest Arkansas’ climate still has warm days and cold nights, so this it is not the right time.  

Recommended times for pruning different plants varies and should be done when it results in the least damage to the plant. Unless you’re familiar with proper pruning techniques, fall pruning could cause more harm than good. 

When done at the right time pruning specific plants actually increases flowering, give plant parts more access to sunlight, and produces more fruit. Pruning hedges, trees and shrubs now can stimulate new growth at a time when most plants are trying to go dormant and  improper pruning can result in damaged or weakened plants. 

Do you have a reason to prune?

Disease or damage to a plant is one reason you may need to cut back branches and anytime is a good time, preferably before the plant’s new growth begins in the spring. Removing dead or dying branches can help to prevent the spread of disease to other parts of the plant and helps to produce new, healthy growth.

Other reasons for pruning are excessive growth, when a plant is too large for the available space; limiting visibility from your driveway or perhaps rubbing against the side of your house or your car. Wait to prune until winter or early spring when most woody plants are dormant and have lost their leaves. This makes it easier to prune out crossed branches that can cause damage, as branches rub against each other.

The timing when a plant blooms determines when it should be pruned. Don’t prune trees and shrubs now, especially those that bloom in the spring, as they have already set their flower buds for next spring. 

In this previous article we wrote about the importance of pruning bushes and hedges before the intense heat of the Summer. 

Shrubs and trees that flower in the summer (except for big leaf hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas and gardenias) should be pruned between the end of February and mid-March because they will bloom on the current season’s growth. 

Big leaf hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas and gardenias are different. They all bloom in the summer but they set their flower buds at the end of the summer into early fall. You will not have flowers in the summer if you prune them before growth begins. The time to prune them is when the flowers begin to fade. According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, “The time to prune gardenias is immediately following the first set of blooms.” “Prune gardenias after they bloom in June,” advises of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, “If pruning of gardenias or hydrangeas are needed, do so immediately after the first big flush of flowers in the summer.”  Learn more here about their article on Pruning Hydrangeas.

There are some varieties of the hydrangea family bloom on the new growth and can be pruned in late February to mid-March without damaging flowers. Oak-leaf hydrangeas don’t need a lot of pruning; simply prune out the dead stems at the base in early spring. Knowing what varieties of hydrangeas are yours and how to properly prune them will allow you to have more blossoms next year.

Shrubs such as hollies, cleyera, boxwood and elaeagnus that you are growing primarily for greenery can be pruned lightly at any season. However, if cutting back more than one third of the plant, do it early in the spring between February and mid-April. This will give them more time to recover. 

For early spring bloomers that only need light pruning (like lilacs and spireas), prune them just after they finish blooming, but no later than June 15.

Prune overgrown deciduous shrubs in the winter.  Annual pruning is not needed on all shrubs, however roses, buddleia and summer-blooming spirea will do well if you cut them back every year in late winter, otherwise, the stems will grow woodier and only bloom on the tips of the branches.  

Cane-producing shrubs include hydrangeas, nandina, spirea, abelia, buddleia, itea, forsythia and red and yellow twigged dogwoods. If you need to prune these plants, remove the older, woodier canes at the soil line. The timing for pruning depends on when each type of plant blooms. Red and yellow twigged dogwoods, for instance, are grown for their bright red or yellow stems in the winter. The winter stems are more vibrant on young stems, so removing a third of the canes each spring will keep them prettier in the winter months. Removing the older, woodier canes at the soil line encourages new growth from the ground up and is known as rejuvenation. Forsythia will also bloom better if you remove a third of the old canes every year after the blooms fade. 

A combination of thinning and cutting back of cane-producing plants is often done to maintain the beauty and vigor of these fast growing and colorful plants. 

You can count on our team of professionals to properly care for and prune your trees and shrubs in our Northwest Arkansas climate. When we prune, we do so selectively, because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to your landscape’s woody plants. 

If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, Give us a call – 479-856-9800 or Contact us here.  We would be happy to help you with your landscape pruning needs.






University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension-



3 rules of pruning – Following the why, when and how theory keeps plants lush and lovely

by,  Janet B. Carson | Special to the Democrat-Gazette | March 18, 2017



Why You Should Stop Pruning Your Garden in the Fall

By, Leah Zerbe| Good Housekeeping | Aug 8, 2018


Pruning 101:  The Clean-Cut Facts About Pruning – 

Improve the Health and Visual Appeal of Your Garden

By, Benjamin Kilbrid | University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension | April 23, 2019


University of Arkansa Cooperative Extension Service

Pruning | May 7, 2016

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