Last year during quarantine, you may have spent a lot more time working on your landscape, making it beautiful. After all, if you spend more time looking at it as you work and conduct school from home, it should be pleasing to the eye. But now it’s still winter, and all those once-green leaves and colorful flowers fell off and blew away long ago. Take heart! Spring is just a few weeks away, and if you are dreaming of greenery, we have a suggestion that will help your plants flourish once again. Keep reading to learn why late winter pruning promotes spring growth.

Plants that lose all of their leaves for part of the year are called deciduous plants and include trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials. Late winter is the best time to prune while these plants are still dormant, just before new growth begins to emerge. Strategic pruning removes dead and weaker stems to promote the remaining stems’ robust growth and encourage new growth and flowering. It gives you control over the plant’s size and the direction you want it to grow so that the plant’s structure and the design intent of your landscape are maintained. It is much easier to see the plant’s form with bare stems, increasing your efficiency in shaping the structure. And most importantly, in winter, there is less chance of transmitting diseases from one plant to another or attracting insects to fresh pruning wounds.

Look for a mild, sunny day to take out your pruners and get to work. Remember to work slowly, stop and review your work, and know when to stop. You can always take more off, but you cannot put it back on. Here are a few notes to help you get started.

Three types of pruning cuts are thinning, heading back, and rejuvenation. Thinning removes interior branches while maintaining the overall plant shape. The purpose is to increase light and air circulation through the branches and accentuate its structure. Starting at the center and moving to the exterior, remove stems to the plant’s base or the point of origin. Only remove up to one-third of the largest branches at one time.

Heading back is used to reduce the height and remove each branch back to a larger branch or bud. When trimming back to a bud, cut at a slight angle one-quarter inch above the bud. Shrubs that can tolerate rejuvenation pruning will benefit from this technique when they are overgrown. These plants can be cut back to a height as little as four inches from the ground when they are dormant.

While the branches are bare, examine them for disease and insect problems. Look for swellings, open lesions, or darkened areas that could be symptoms of disease. Remove egg masses of tent caterpillars, gypsy moths, and tussock moths. Take the extra time to disinfect your tools with a 10 percent solution of rubbing alcohol and water to prevent the spread of disease from cut to cut as you prune.

By pruning in late winter, your plants will be invigorated and experience abundant fresh spring growth. Then you can once again enjoy your beautifully designed landscape. And if you need a little help, call the professionals at Createscape Landscaping Services. Servicing in southeastern Wisconsin, Createscape Landscaping Services can meet your landscaping needs. Visit to learn more about services offered or call us at (262) 662-0201.