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Prune Oaks Now, Too Early for Perennials

Know what to prune and when. Every cut you make signals a plant’s dormant cells to initiate new shoots; pruning too early can put tender new growth at risk during a late frost.

Planning on pruning this winter? It’s helpful to know what to prune and when. If you’ve already got the loppers out, remember: there’s no need to worry about perennials yet. Due to unpredictable winter temperatures in San Antonio, it’s best to wait until March.

Every cut you make signals a plant’s dormant cells to initiate new shoots; pruning too early can put tender new growth at risk during a late frost.

On the other hand, there’s not much time left to prune oaks if you want to minimize the chance of oak wilt. During the coldest days of the year, the beetles that carry the spores of the oak wilt fungus, Ceratocystis fagacearum, are few or unlikely to fly. Any injury to an oak — any oak — in warm weather, especially in spring and early summer (Feb. 1-June 15), will invite beetles. So during that time, put the pruners aside and leave your oaks alone.

The rest of the year, be sure to follow the usual recommendations to prune oaks – paint immediately any wound or cut, use only properly cleaned tools and handle carefully any unseasoned oak firewood. Remember, oak wilt is far easier to prevent than to treat.

A final thought on all pruning… think like a surgeon. Before you begin pruning, make sure all your tools (pruners, loppers, scissors, etc.) are sharp, clean and sterile. Try to clean them when you move from one plant to another. A precise, clean cut produces minimal damage to the plant tissue, allowing it to seal quickly with reduced probability of decay.

David Abrego
David Abrego
David Abrego is a conservation consultant for SAWS. David, a native of Panama, likes to spend his time surrounded by plants and fruit trees. So if you can’t find him at home, he’s probably working in a greenhouse. David is also an arborist and an irrigation technician.
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