What to Prune in Late Winter

Jo.Baker
Published on March 8th 2020
16
A close up of a hand pruning a tree with secateurs
The days are getting longer, and we can visibly see signs of spring on our doorstep. The urge to get back out into the garden has kicked in, and there's plenty to be done.
I have put together a list of plants that, if pruned now will reward us later in the year with vigorous growth, flowers and fruit.

Roses

You can prune most roses between February and March. Cut out any dead, dying, damaged or diseased areas (the four D's), and any spindly growth.
You can cut most varieties back hard (except climbing, rambling or shrub varieties) to encourage new, healthy growth.
For repeat-flowering shrub roses, lightly cut back last years growth by 30 to 50 per cent and then remove a third of the older stems down to the base.
For single flush shrub roses, i.e. those that only flower once, it's best to wait until after they have finished blooming in summer.
You can cut back the spent flowering stems from Climbing roses by 60 per cent now. If they are heavily congested, you can also take out the oldest branches.
Cutting them back to the base will encourage replacement stems. Now is also an excellent time to tie in last year's new shoots.
Rambling roses are generally pruned in late summer after flowering. However, if they have become unruly, they can also be given a renovating cut in late winter, sacrificing the coming year's flowers.

Fruit

If you didn't prune summer fruiting raspberries in the autumn, you still have time. Cut out all the old stems that had fruit on last year back to the ground. It's also worth cutting out any weak, spindly shoots, leaving only the vigorous new shoots to tie in.
You can cut autumn fruiting canes back all the way back to ground level. Cut out around a third of the oldest stems at ground level.
A hand displaying an example of a swollen big bud on a current bush stem. Photo by Candide user @edwin_clamp
Keep an eye out for and cut out any stems with swollen buds as they may be infected with big bud mite that can spread a disease called 'Reversion virus'. Photo by edwin_clamp
Tayberries, loganberries,wineberry and boysenberry are generally pruned in autumn. If you didn't, you could also prune these long caned plants now.
Cut back the canes which bore fruit last year to the base. Make sure not to cut away last year's growth as this will provide fruit this year.
A mass of tangled branches against a wooden fence rail being pruned using a pair of red handled garden shears.

Shrubs

The Butterfly bush is such a vigorous plant you can cut it hard cut back to almost ground level. It will still put on nearly two metres (6ft) of growth in a year.
If you wanted to maintain some height, only remove a third of the old stems to encourage young flowering replacement stems.
Like the Butterfly bush, you can hard prune elders to encourage more abundant summer foliage.
You may want to wait another month before cutting back dogwood to enjoy the colourful stems. I'm always swamped in March so like to schedule it in early.
There are different types of Hydrangeas and now is the time to prune H.arborescens and H. paniculate species.
The old stems can be cut back to about 30cm (1ft) above ground level - just above a bud.
Remember to mulch and feed to give them all a flying start to the new growing season.
A thick branch being cut away with a han held pruning saw.
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Trees

Most deciduous trees do not need an annual prune. Still, they do benefit from having the dead, dying, damaged or diseased branches removed while they are dormant.
The exception are the vigorous sap produces such as Magnolia, Japanese maples, Birch, Hornbeams and Laburnums.
At this time of year, cuts will not heal fast enough, and the tree could bleed too much sap.
Fruit trees such as apples and pears can be pruned now for better crop production.
Leave off pruning all stone fruit trees, such as cherries, apricots and plums until after the fruit have 'set' (started to grow) to reduce the risk of silver leaf infection.

Climbers

A close up of a Wisteria being trained up a red brick house wall.
Starting the process of re-training a neglected Wisteria.
Wisteria
Pruning wisteria twice a year will improve flowering and now is the best time to give this plant its winter prune. Follow the link below for advice on how to do this.
Now is also an excellent time to give other climbers and creepers a trim, especially if they are starting to grow over doors, windows or gutters.
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Vitis vinifera
Lots of people advocate pruning outdoor grapevines in November or December as they are prone to bleeding sap at other times, which weakens the plant.
However, if you didn't get around to it or live in slightly colder climates, there is still time. Prune back stems, leaving between three to six buds from the main framework of branches.

Hopefully, this will have given you an idea of jobs to do right now, let us know how it's going using the hashtag #pruning

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