Pruning Native Plants
by Allison Levin
California native plants can be used in every garden style: formal, Japanese, architectural, you name it. But even when the garden is "wild and natural," gardeners usually want to know about pruning their trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and grasses. Over the year, I'll be writing about when, why, and how to prune various California plants in the garden. In particular, I'll be writing about trees and woody shrubs.
Arbutus menziesii. Photo by Doreen L. Smith.
Ask Yourself Why
When you think about pruning any plant, ask yourself what do you want to change, and what do you want to achieve? Are there branches that are dead or rubbing against each other? Do you want the plant to stand out as a focal point in the garden? Has it become too leggy? Do you want to control its size?
Check the Calendar
The time to prune a plant is very important, for a few reasons:
Because so many of our California woody plants are dormant in summer and do their growing when the rain kicks in, the deep of winter is usually the wrong time for pruning. Exceptions to that rule include pines and arbutus. For these species, plan on making any needed structural cuts in December or January. Annual, finer pruning work on pines can be scheduled for October or November.
Next: March and reconstructive pruning for deciduous trees.
Allison Levin is an aesthetic pruner and native plant consultant living in Sausalito and working in the greater SF Bay region. You can send her comments or questions for this series at grownatives.cnps.org