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.