Pruning roses and fruit trees

Proper pruning is an art. Before you start snipping at branches this winter, take some time to read about how to prune roses and fruit trees.

Now that it’s winter, it’s time to brave the wet chill and think about pruning. If you are totally new to pruning, there are some excellent resources from many agricultural schools, extension services, the Center for Urban Horticulture, and Plant Amnesty at

Many homeowners ask me how to prune fruit trees, roses, and other plants in their landscape. Along with the resources mentioned, I have a bit of helpful advice to offer. It’s not difficult to prune fruit trees or roses, once you know what to do, but it is a bit of an art. There is nothing worse than a bad haircut and I think our plants agree.

Pruning fruit trees

In my experience, fruit trees are all a little different. Apples generally need to be cut lower and open in the middle to the point you can throw a hat through the branches. Think about the light in the summer -- we want sunlight to get into the middle of the tree and prevent mildew and fungi. Pears, on the other hand, are more columnar but still want to be more open rather than tangled. Bartlett pears can be especially tricky to prune. And remember not to cut off those fruiting spurs for pears and apples.

I usually do not recommend pruning cherry trees unless there is a clearance issue. Most cherries don’t like pruning and will quickly regrow double whatever has been cut off; usually in a very quick and upright fashion.

Pruning roses

Pruning rosesRoses are another story. The number one mistake I see with roses is not pruning enough! A hybrid tea in full sun (there should be no other kind) will be knee high when you are done. Roses, much like apples, need to be open in the center. With roses, they need air circulation to prevent the dreaded black spot and other nefarious diseases.

If you have had blackspot in the past, remember to clean up all the leaves from last season. This will help prevent them from appearing again this year.

There are many types and forms of roses, but most need pruning during the winter. If you have no idea how to deal with a rose, see if you can figure out when it was last pruned. Usually, you can see the old cuts...and the results (good or bad!).

Keep in mind that a rose is directional; if you look at the nodes on the stems, they will alternate between about 4 directions. If you plan well and place your cuts just above the node, you can attempt to get the rose to grow in that direction. Most are trained to grow outward, but some are kept inward.

And remember to wear gloves when working with roses, or stock up on bandages beforehand.

Pruning help is just a phone call away

Both fruit trees and roses are a pleasure to have in a garden but knowing how to prune them is important. We at Environmental Construction Inc. are here to help...even in the winter. So please don't hesitate to call us.

Environmental Construction, Inc.

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