Ornamental cherry trees, with their breathtaking spring blossoms and graceful forms, are a beloved plant in many gardens. However, to keep these trees healthy and looking their best, regular pruning is essential.
Pruning not only helps to maintain the tree’s shape and size but also promotes vigorous growth and abundant flowering.
The best time to prune ornamental cherry trees is typically in late summer near the end of the growing season. This allows the tree to heal before winter and reduces the risk of disease. However, light pruning can also be done in late winter or early spring before the new growth starts.
In the following sections, we’ll cover the timing and methods of pruning ornamental cherry trees, discuss the benefits and purposes of pruning in different seasons, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to prune your tree effectively.
- The best time to prune ornamental cherry trees is in late summer after they have finished blooming, but light pruning can also be done in late winter or early spring.
- Pruning involves removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches, shaping the tree, and thinning the canopy if necessary.
- Young ornamental cherry trees should be pruned and trained to establish a good structure. Overgrown trees should be pruned gradually over several years to reduce their size without stressing the tree.
- Pruning can stimulate growth and, when done correctly, can enhance the tree’s health and appearance.
Be a cherry tree care pro! Decode the significance of pruning, fertilizing, watering, and other key factors in my must-read guide: Ornamental Cherry Tree Care and Maintenance.
When To Prune Ornamental Cherry Trees
Understanding when to prune your ornamental cherry trees is crucial for their health and aesthetics. The timing of pruning can affect the tree’s growth, bloom, and susceptibility to diseases.
Here, we’ll discuss the different times of the year when pruning can be done and what each period entails.
Winter, specifically late winter, is a common time to prune many types of trees, including ornamental cherries.
Winter pruning, done when the tree is dormant, results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring.
It’s also easier to see the tree’s structure and decide which branches to remove when the tree is leafless.
The best time for winter pruning is late winter, just before the tree breaks dormancy. This reduces the time the wounds are open before the new growth starts.
The primary purpose of winter pruning is to maintain the tree’s shape, remove dead or diseased wood, and improve the tree’s overall structure and health.
While heavy pruning is not recommended in spring, light pruning can be done to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches that were not visible or didn’t occur over the winter.
Spring pruning allows you to remove any branches damaged by winter weather. It also lets you assess the tree’s health after winter as you remove any diseased or dead wood.
If you need to prune in spring, do so early, before the tree puts out new growth. Once the tree starts actively growing, it’s best to avoid pruning until later in the year.
The main purpose of spring pruning is to remove dead, diseased, or damaged wood and to prepare the tree for its growing season.
Late Summer Pruning
Late summer is the optimal time for pruning ornamental cherry trees.
Pruning in late summer, after the tree has bloomed and enjoyed several months of healthy leaf growth, reduces the risk of disease transmission.
It also allows the tree to heal before winter, reducing the risk of winter damage.
The best time for late summer pruning is shortly before the autumn leaf change. This allows the tree to direct its energy to healing the pruning wounds instead of actively growing.
The main purpose of late summer pruning is to shape the tree and remove any diseased, dead, or damaged wood.
This is also a good time to thin out the tree if it has become too dense as a dense canopy can lead to disease problems.
How To Prune Ornamental Cherry Trees
Pruning is more than just cutting off branches; it’s a process that requires careful planning and execution.
Before you start pruning, it’s important to understand the tree’s natural shape and growth habits.
Ornamental cherry trees typically have a graceful, spreading habit with branches that arch downwards.
The goal of pruning is to enhance this natural shape, not change it.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prune your ornamental cherry trees effectively.
Tools & Safety
Proper tools are essential for effective pruning. For smaller branches, hand pruners or secateurs are ideal.
Safety is also crucial when pruning. Wear protective gloves, safety glasses, and sturdy shoes.
If you need to prune higher branches, use a ladder or a pole pruner, but for very high or large branches, consider hiring a professional.
Pruning To Shape
Start by standing back and looking at the tree. Identify the branches that are out of place or disrupting the tree’s natural shape.
When pruning for shape, make your cuts just above a bud that is facing the direction you want the new growth to go.
This could be outward-facing to encourage a wider shape or upward-facing to encourage height.
Removing Dead, Damaged, Diseased or Crossing Branches
The next step is to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. These can be identified by their dry, brittle wood or signs of disease such as discolored or peeling bark.
Also, remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, as these can create wounds that are entry points for disease.
When removing these branches, make your cut at the base of the branch, but be careful not to cut into the branch collar, which is the swollen area at the base of the branch.
This area contains cells that help the tree heal from the cut.
Pruning To Thin
If the tree’s canopy has become too dense, some thinning may be necessary. A dense canopy can prevent sunlight and air from reaching the inner parts of the tree, which can lead to disease.
When thinning, remove some of the inner branches to open up the tree’s structure. However, be careful not to overdo it; removing too many branches can stress the tree.
Pruning Tips and Best Practices
Pruning is as much an art as it is a science. Here are some tips and best practices to help you prune your ornamental cherry trees effectively:
- Prune at the Right Time: The best time to prune ornamental cherry trees is in late summer as the growing season is drawing to a close. However, dead, diseased, or damaged wood can be removed at any time of the year.
- Don’t Over Prune: A common mistake is to over-prune the tree. Every cut is a wound that the tree needs to heal. Too many cuts can stress the tree and make it more susceptible to diseases.
- Make Clean Cuts: Make sure your pruning tools are sharp and clean. Dull tools can cause jagged cuts that take longer to heal and can increase the risk of disease.
- Consider the Tree’s Natural Shape: When pruning, consider the tree’s natural shape and growth habits. The goal of pruning is to enhance this natural shape, not change it.
- Remove Crossing Branches: Branches that cross or rub against each other can create wounds that are entry points for disease. Remove these branches to prevent potential problems.
Pruning and Training Young Ornamental Cherry Trees
Pruning and training young ornamental cherry trees is crucial for their future growth and shape.
Here’s how to do it:
- First Year: In the first year, focus on establishing a good structure. Select a central leader and 3-4 lateral branches that are evenly spaced around the trunk. Remove any other branches.
- Second Year: In the second year, continue to develop the tree’s structure. Select additional lateral branches, and remove any branches that are crossing, rubbing, or growing at odd angles.
- Third Year and Beyond: In the third year and beyond, continue to maintain the tree’s structure as you did in the last year, remove any dead or diseased wood, and thin out the canopy if necessary. Always consider the tree’s natural shape when pruning.
Pruning an Overgrown Flowering Cherry Tree
Pruning an overgrown flowering cherry tree can be a challenge, but it’s necessary to restore the tree’s health and appearance. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by assessing the tree. Identify the main branches and any dead, diseased, or crossing branches
- The first step is to remove any dead or diseased wood. This can be done at any time of the year.
- If the tree is significantly overgrown, reduce its size gradually over several years. Removing too much at once can stress the tree.
- If the canopy is dense, thin it out to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration.
- Once the tree is back to a manageable size, maintain regular pruning to keep it healthy and attractive.
Should Pruning Cuts Be Sealed?
It’s generally not necessary to seal pruning cuts. Trees have a natural ability to seal off wounds and prevent the spread of diseases.
In fact, some studies have shown that wound dressings can actually slow the healing process and may even encourage the growth of decay organisms.
Does Pruning Stimulate Growth?
Yes, pruning can stimulate growth. When you prune, you’re removing the growing tips of the tree, which changes the tree’s growth hormones.
This can result in vigorous new growth near the pruning cuts. However, it’s important to prune correctly and at the right time to ensure healthy growth.
Pruning is an essential part of caring for ornamental cherry trees. It helps to maintain the tree’s shape, promotes healthy growth, and can enhance blooming and foliage.
While it may seem complex, with a bit of knowledge and practice, anyone can learn to prune their trees effectively.
Remember that the goal of pruning is not to change the tree’s natural shape, but to enhance it.
With proper pruning, your ornamental cherry trees can continue to provide beauty and enjoyment for many years to come.
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