Pretty much any time is a good time for ‘incidental pruning’, when you notice a bit of dead material or a long, whippy stem. It’s also a useful way to touch base with what’s happening in the garden. More ‘proactive pruning’, however, requires a focused approach to encourage next season’s blooms or crops, or to ensure your plant maintains its shape and habit.
Here’s a general guide for when to prune different plants. Precise timing will vary depending on your climate zone.
Autumn Summer-flowering perennials and shrubs, such as lavender, catmint, salvia and rosemary; summer-fruiting mango and raspberries after harvest.
Winter Spring-flowering and spring-fruiting plants, such as roses, wisteria, blueberries and grapevines; deciduous fruit trees, including apples, pears and figs; evergreen fruit trees, such as olives; ornamental grasses.
Spring Winter- and spring-blooming shrubs, including camellia, azalea and rhododendron, and natives, such as wattle, grevillea and banksia; summer-flowering shrubs, including hibiscus, plumbago and oleander (make sure you wear gloves as all parts of the plant are poisonous); flowering vines, including mandevilla and passionfruit.
Summer Gardenia, repeat-flowering roses, lilac, stone-fruit trees.
It’s not just when you prune your plants, but how you do it that’s important. Follow these tips for the best results:
- Cut just above a node (leaf joint) and bud, which is where the new growth will appear. If you leave a stub too long, it may rot or die back and damage the plant.
- Prune at an angle away from the bud to encourage any water to drain away.
- Use the right tools, and the best quality you can afford, and make sure your blades are clean and sharp for a clean cut. This will prevent the cut forming rough edges that may introduce disease.
You’ll find more valuable pruning tips, including which tools to use for particular jobs and how to sharpen your secateurs, in the May 2021 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.