February is the time for gardeners to prune. Pruning tells the plant it’s time to wake up and grow.
Begin with the correct tools. Hand pruners are the main pruning tool you will need. Thorn- proof or gauntlet gloves are useful when you prune your roses. Other tools include a keyhole saw and large loppers. Make sure they are clean and sharpened. Use alcohol to dip or wipe your pruning shears after pruning each plant to prevent spread of disease.
Hardwood fruit trees need to be pruned. The Open Center pruning technique is used for hardwood trees including peach, plum and nectarine that grow in our area. The Central Leader pruning technique is used on apples, pears, mayhaws, pecans and persimmons. The Open Center pruning technique for a first-year tree creates a main trunk with 4 main supporting branches that form a circular shape that should be large enough to hold a beach ball in the center of the plant. The Center Leader pruning technique creates one main trunk with alternating side branches.
From Valentine’s Day through the end of February is the recommended time to prune. Look for buds that begin to swell in February. Choose outward growing buds. Cut ¼ inch above the bud at a 45-degree angle above the outward bud. This will make the rose grow outward. Remove canes that rub against each other. Clear the middle of the plant to increase air circulation to prevent fungal formation and to deter spider mites. Remove spindly or diseased growth back to the newest healthy cane. Trim vining roses after they bloom. Knockout roses can be pruned anytime to keep their shape. Multi-petaled roses will spring bloom in 45 days and fewer petaled varieties will bloom in 35 days. YouTube videos from colleges and big nurseries are available online if you want to view in detail how to prune a rose bush.
Valentine’s Day is also the day to prune citrus trees. Limited pruning is done on citrus. Prune citrus trees of dead branches, branches crossing over each other and water sprouts arising from the center of the tree. Branches touching the ground should be removed. Instead of topping the tree, control the height of the tree by finding where the long shoot begins on larger branches. Cut the shoot off flush at that point. Freeze-damaged trees should be pruned in July after the second flush of growth. Pruning a freeze-damaged tree consists of removing the dead wood to the point where the live wood starts. If you live in a limited city lot space like me, you may need to unfortunately prune limbs when they get too close to your neighbor’s yard or when the limbs begin to grow into your fence line.
Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Eileen Slater at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (409)835-8461.