Which Plants Should I Prune in January?
Check out which garden favourites will benefit from a trim this month
Wisteria requires pruning twice a year. In January, the shoots that were shortened by the July pruning need to be taken back even further to two or three buds from the main stem.
It’s also a good idea to prune those climbers that could work their way into windows, gutters or door frames. These include ivy, Virginia creeper, and the climbing Hydrangea petiolaris.
Cotoneaster horizontalis can also be pruned back now to remove any shoots that disfigure its overall appearance. If you have a plant that you want to train along a wall or fence, remove any stems growing away from the support, so you end up with a neat fan shape.
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If you have apple or pear trees in any shape – espalier, fan, bush or cordon – prune back the leading shoots of the main branches by about a third to a half, depending on the vigour of the tree variety.
Fruit trees will continue to grow and fruit even if you don’t prune them, but the process will prevent them from producing smaller, inferior fruit as they age. It will also stop the branches becoming too congested.
The main aim of pruning is to create an open crown with evenly spaced branches. If the fruiting spurs on your trained tree are overcrowded, thin them out in order to create better air circulation and reduce the risk of diseases, such as brown rot and blossom wilt. Also prune out any branches with mummified fruit still attached to them.
Don’t worry if you prune too hard, as the resulting growth will be stronger at the point of pruning.
Do not prune your plum or cherry trees now, as to do so would make them susceptible to infections such as silver leaf.
Prevent young trees from growing out of shape by giving them a winter prune. You’ll also stop the sap flowing, which will avoid any energy being lost.
Start by pruning out any diseased stems completely, as well as any that are misplaced. Cut them back to a junction on the main stem.
You can also do this to trees you want to make into a standard – those with a clear length of bare trunk. Making a standard will take several seasons, so take it slowly. In the first year, shorten the stems of any side growth. The following year, remove the branches completely to create a bare trunk.
Don’t be too harsh, as the tree needs extra leaves on its main stem during the first year to help with growth and encourage a vigorous plant.
There are some trees that are not suited to being pruned in January, so make sure you check first. Plum, walnut, birch and magnolia trees are among those that shouldn’t be pruned so early in the year.
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Soft fruits, such as raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries, can all be pruned now while it’s easier to see what you’re doing.
On summer-fruiting raspberries, prune to the ground all the old canes that bore fruit last year. Tie in any new, non-fruiting canes that grew from last year. If there are any stems taller than the support wire, cut them back to the top of the wire.
Blackcurrants are called a ‘stool’ plant, which means the branches grow in a clump at, or just below, ground level. Every year you should remove one third of the bush to help the vigour of the plant. Cut old stems to the ground, leaving younger wood to fruit for the summer months.
As fruit develops on old and new wood, you may end up cutting some of this out. However, the aim is to get a good balance of both old and new wood with an open bush shape.
Grapevines can also be pruned during January. Cut back the laterals, or side shoots, to two or three buds, as well as the leading shoots, where possible. If you prune any later than January, you may risk the plant sap bleeding from any cuts you make.
Cut back the previous year’s foliage from Helleborus x hybridus to help reveal the delicate blooms, and to remove any fungal diseases, such as hellebore leaf spot.
Other herbaceous perennials can also be cut back if you wish, especially if they look diseased or tatty. Pruning now will restore shape and tidiness, but don’t do it to those plants that add winter interest to the garden, such as ornamental grasses and Eryngium.
Also, avoid cutting any tender plants yet, such as woody-stemmed penstemons, as older stems help to protect the crown from frost.
Are you planning to prune plants in your garden during the winter? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.