Winter Pruning and Spring Prep

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Winter Pruning and Spring Prep

Our short winter is coming to a close. It may be chilly today but by the end of the month, it is quite possible we will be transitioning into spring. When you look around and take stock of your landscape, your attention may focus on the bare trees and the frost burnt branches and leaves of some of the more frost tender shrubs. While these things may be unsightly, they are quite temporary. Your landscape contractor will help schedule your winter pruning to promote plant health so your landscape will be ready for the coming growing season.

  • Frost cutting - though it is unsightly, wait until danger of frost has passed (typically mid-February in the low desert Phoenix area) before pruning away frost damaged branches and leaves. Leaving these in place can potentially protect the plant from more frost damage.
  • Dead-heading (removing spent flowers) is a great way to freshen up a flower bed, flower pots and some shrubs.
  • If you haven’t cut back your ornamental grasses yet, it’s not too late. Your landscaper can cut these nearly to the ground to rejuvenate them for spring growth. Watering may need to be adjusted so the cut back crowns do not dry out.
  • It is a great time to tackle overgrown pad cacti. Your landscaper should reduce the size of the cactus by breaking off the unwanted pads at the joints.


  • Prune deciduous trees such as Chinese elm, pistache and ash when your arborist can see the crown of the tree without its foliage. This allows them to concentrate on making ideal cuts, refining the structure of the tree.
  • Removal of diseased wood in the colder months helps prevent spread of some diseases to adjacent limbs or trees. Branch diseases, such as sooty canker, are inactive in colder temperatures.
  • Evergreens like Afghan and Aleppo pines can be pruned during the winter when transpiration rates are reduced. Minimal pruning is always best on pine trees.
  • Mesquite trees prone to sapping can be pruned during the winter months to reduce oozing from new wounds. Honey mesquite and velvet mesquite can be pruned anytime, but wait until the end of January to prune Chilean mesquite in higher elevations or colder areas.
  • If required, raise canopies in the cooler months to allow time for the tree to adapt to new sun exposure on previously shaded limbs or trunk. Wait until after Feb. 15th to trim any frost sensitive species.