Winter Pruning for Prosperous Spring

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By Terri Aufmuth, Owner of Cornerstone Landscaping

pollarded crape myrtleDon’t let the darkness of winter bring you down… there is still gardening work to be done!

So you’ve put away all your clay pots, winterized your hoses and turned off your hose bibs. It seems like it will be months before you can enjoy your landscape. Fear not, there are tasks to complete inside and out that will bring you closer to a prosperous spring season.

Plants still actively grow over the winter months. While the air may be cool, the ground is still generally warm enough for roots to continue to find their way and seek moisture and nutrients. Be sure that your plants are adequately watered and mulched to enable their growth. Be careful to not put too much mulch against the bark of trees or layer it more than 3” deep. We’ll talk about the dangers of “mulch volcanos” another day.

Winter is a great time to prune deciduous trees. It’s less messy without the leaves and easier to see the branching structure of the plants.  Prune plants to remove diseased or damaged branches, watersprouts ( limbs that growth vertically along a branch-often near the location of a previous cut) or crossing branches and suckers that grow from the base of the plant robbing it of nutrients and water.  Prune to allow air to move through the plant and also keep in mind coming snow loads, which can split branches.

Cuts should be clean and close to the branch collar. Between plants, clean your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol to help prevent the possible spread of disease.  Do not seal cuts with any kind of tar or sealant. Those methods are no longer recommended. Pruning cuts should heal naturally.

Another important winter task is to clean landscape beds and vegetable gardens of all old leaves, debris, branches, and spoils. This will reduce the risk of disease and insects overwintering in the beds and garden.

Enjoy the snow, it is a great source of moisture and insulation for your landscape. It also allows dreams of spring jonquils, lettuce growing in seed trays, and forsythia’s sudden yellow spark.  Ahhhh…..spring.

Located in Northern Virginia and serving greater Prince William, Cornerstone Landscaping, was established in 1997 with the intention of creating a landscape design-build firm that would provide quality, value and professionalism in each project. For more landscaping guidance from Terri Aufmuth, go to



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