Why You Should Prune Your Shrubs and Trees

Your trees, shrubs, and palms may be looking a little rough this spring. Just like you, they need a little trim or a haircut to get them looking their best for your commercial, HOA or school property.

We recommend that you take special care when you prune your shrubs, palms and trees. Proper pruning not only helps your shrubs, palms and trees look their best, but it can protect them from storm damage, keep them healthy by allowing more sunlight and air to circulate, as well as encourage them to produce fuller blossoms and leaves.

Pruning Shrubs

We recommend not pruning your blooming shrubs until they’re done flowering. Right now, you may see buds on your allamanda, bougainvillea, bottlebrush and croton bushes. Yes, we understand that they may look a bit straggly, but your commercial property will be rewarded with lots of flowers very soon.

Later in the summer, you can prune your flowering shrubs so they’ll produce more fragrant flowers for you next spring.

In mid-March through April, you can reshape your woody ornamentals, such as variegated arboricolia, boxwoods, hollies, and viburnums to get them back into shape. When you prune your shrubs, you should remove:

  • Dead and diseased limbs
  • All branches that touch each other
  • All branches that look out of place
  • Older branches to control the plant’s growth.

Sometimes, your shrubs may need to be rejuvenated. You’ll bring your shrubs back to life by thinning them out, and even cutting them back to their base. You should perform hard cut backs in late February to mid-March. The result: you’ll be rewarded with a denser growth and more foliage.

Pruning Trees

When you prune your South Florida trees, your pruning to:

  • Allow better air circulation and light to penetrate your tree’s canopy.
  • Enhance your trees’ beauty and longevity.
  • Remove all dead and diseased branches that could pose a safety hazard to property and people.
  • Help your commercial property’s trees better resist storm damage, disease, insects, dry conditions and cold weather.
  • Lessen wind resistance.
  • Inspect your trees for fungi, disease, insect infestation and girdling roots.

When you remove large tree limbs, use the three-cut method:

  • First cut at the base of tree, away from the tree’s collar
  • Then place a cut midway on the limb
  • Lastly, cut toward the end of the limb.

Use the three-cut method to protect your trees from extensive bark damage. If you just cut at the collar and ignored the rest of the limb, it could result in a larger wound with the bark removed from the tree. And a larger wound equals a greater chance of insect infestation and disease. With the three-cut method, your trees’ small cuts, called donuts, will heal properly and will be unnoticeable as the tree ages.

Sometimes trees will have structural defects, such as two leaders coming out of the trunk of the tree. These trees usually look like a V or a W at the base. While they may be unique, they’re not strong enough to withstand storms or heavy winds. Our recommendation for weak co-leader trees is cabling and bracing. When you add a brace to your tree, you essentially install a brace between the two co-leaders to hold them together. Then, further up the tree, add cables to hold the canopy together.

We recommend regular inspections of cabled and braced trees to make sure that the equipment is doing its job holding the two leaders together.

You should look for overhead wires’ location near the trees you want pruned. If trees are intersecting with overhead wires, contact your local municipality to have the utility company handle that type of tree work. Use extreme caution when working on trees or palms that are touching overhead wires.

Pruning Palms

Palms don’t belong to the tree family. Thus, their pruning needs are different from both trees and shrubs. Unless they’re presenting a danger to people and property, there really shouldn’t be much pruning done to them. Exceptions include:

  • Old leaves that have stayed past their prime to produce food for new fronds
  • Large, heavy fronds that haven’t shed yet—but pose a danger to people and property below. For example, royal palms may need their fronds removed before they shed if they’re over walkways, parking lots or paths.
  • For coconuts and other palms that produce heavy fruits, remove the flower stalks so no fruit is produced.

The two keys needed to keep your palms looking their best include proper irrigation management and fertilization. You should employ drench fertilization for your palms three times a year with a general, all purpose and balanced palm fertilizer.

For best irrigation management, you have to depend on the weather to determine how much and often you need to water your property’s palms. Wind, dry conditions, temperature and time of year affect when and how much to irrigate. Yet, during the spring and summer, it’s safe to say that you’ll run your irrigation system three times a week to adequately water your palms. We can educate you on how long you need to run your irrigation system based on your nozzle size, gallons per minute coming from the mainline as well as other factors.

Remember palms, like most plants, don’t like “wet feet” or water puddling around their root systems. If you notice that water isn’t percolating through the soil, but is ponding instead, then stop your irrigation system.

Saving Money on Your Water Bill

Do you think by conserving water that you’ll be sacrificing your commercial property’s turf and landscape’s vibrancy? You can take a deep breath—conserving water with a well-maintained irrigation system will actually benefit your property’s plants.

Water Smart, Save Money & Look Good

In South Florida, it can be hard to make everyone happy. Your boss wants the water bills to go down, the county requires you to turn on your irrigation system on certain days, and you need to keep your retail center or HOA looking mean and green.

How can you please everyone?

By integrating the following 10 tips, you’ll be able to have a more beautiful property while saving money on water bills and meeting your county’s water ordinances:

  1. Have a water audit. Hire a commercial landscape company to give your property a complete water audit. This audit covers your entire property and irrigation system’s reach. You’ll get a report stating where exactly your water is going and if it’s properly irrigating your property.
  2. Monthly maintenance is a must. Your landscape company should also be hired to check your irrigation system each month. Your landscaper should do wet checks—including taking a look at your system’s nozzles as well as cleaning parts and making sure everything is in working order. Plus, your landscaper should check your sprinkler system to make sure water is hitting those areas that need it—not parking lots, sidewalks or the street.
  3. Remember your irrigation is supplementation only. Plant-wise, South Florida is a haven for summer rainfall. Our seasonal downpours help keep everything well-hydrated, meaning that your irrigation system is designed to only cover those days and weeks when we didn’t get a lot of rain.
  4. Do a plant audit. Your well-established palms, shrubs, trees and flowers don’t need as much water as new plant material does. Plan to readjust your timers to provide those areas with less water. And allow your landscape contractor to design and install a landscape that’s water wise.
  5. Consider getting connected to reclaimed water. If your school, apartment complex or sports field is near a non-potable water hook up, consider getting your irrigation system connected to it. You’ll save money on your water bills and conserve water at the same time. And don’t worry—reclaimed water is safe to use on playing fields, turf and landscapes. South Florida’s wastewater treatment plants use advanced treatment programs to get rid of all contaminants—making the water nearly safe enough to drink. It doesn’t smell and it won’t make people sick if they get splashed with it.
  6. Consider recalibrating your older irrigation system. If it’s in your budget, consider getting your sprinkler system retrofitted with the newest irrigation system gadgets. Timers, moisture sensors and smart technology all work together to decrease the amount of time your irrigation system stays on—saving you money in the long run.
  7. Consider hydrozone landscaping. If your landscape isn’t already in hydrozones, you may need to invest to have it redesigned and reinstalled. Hydrozoning simply means that you group plants together that need the same amount of water. For example, you don’t want to pair your drought-tolerant plants with annuals because the annuals need more water to get established. You’ll also ensure that your native plants don’t develop root rot and other diseases because they got too much water.
  8. Don’t forget the mulch. You’ll use less water if your landscaped beds are mulched. Mulch holds in moisture longer as well as providing extra nutrients and plant protection.
  9. Water in the wee hours of the morning. Remember to set your irrigation timers to go off between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Your plants benefit from getting water in the early hours because there’s less wind and the water has a chance to percolate down to the roots before the sun gets too high in the sky. Plus, you can set your timer and finish irrigating your property before you have any customers.
  10. Believe it or not, your property’s turf and landscapes will survive with infrequent, deep watering. Contrary to popular opinion, infrequent, deep watering helps your plants more than a daily light sprinkle. Not only will you help conserve water with infrequent irrigation, but allowing the sprinkler system to stay on a little longer gives that deep watering to help plant roots move downward—which results in a longer-lasting, healthier plant.

How an Irrigation Technician Can Help You

Irrigation technicians will perform a water audit when they first meet with you. After they finish the audit, they’ll sit down with you to make a long-term action plan to maximize your irrigation system’s usage and its reach throughout your property. They’ll also provide you with water zone maps and logs.

Additionally, they perform monthly wet checks, where they evaluate your system for coverage and pressure. They’ll make recommendations to improve your system, clean nozzles and let you know of any broken valves, lines or nozzles.

They can also retrofit your irrigation system with new technology and consistent heads and nozzles. If your system still has an analog or pneumatic clock, let us change it to a digital one for more accuracy.

If they can, they’ll recalibrate your system to allow drip irrigation lines to be added. We recommend driplines in your landscaped beds and for any plants in containers. Driplines will save even more water because they deliver the moisture directly to the plant’s roots.

Setting You Up with Reclaimed Water

If reclaimed water is available in your area, you can retrofit your system by placing signs stating that the water is reclaimed and non-potable. Additionally, you can change your irrigation system’s heads and nozzles since they’ll need to be replaced due to wear and tear. An irrigation replace these parts during your monthly wet checks and there are additional costs for nozzle and head replacement services.

If you install a new system with reclaimed water, you must use purple pipes, rotors, nozzles and valve box covers. These changes will be made at the time of your new irrigation system’s installation. You’ll also need to place purple signs throughout your property letting any residential neighbors know you are now using reclaimed water.