Pruning Flowering Cherry Tree & Fountain Grass

Question:

 My Weeping Flowering Cherry is several years old and has never been pruned. How far back should I cut the long branches? Should this be done now or later after flowering?

Answer:

  • I’d wait and prune you’re Weeping Cherry in the spring after it had finished blooming, but it could be pruned now. The spring pruning is so you can enjoy the maximum amount of color the tree can provide. This also happens to be a primary reason for planting it in the first place.
    • Without any leaves, the structure of the canopy is exposed making the removal of limbs and branches easier along with any dead wood.
    • In addition, this is an ideal time to reduce the rubbing and crossing branches along with thinning out those branches that are to close to one another. This allows for the proper spacing and prevents crowding.
  • With weeping types of flowering trees, the pendulous branches are raised for a variety of reasons, such as to expose the plants growing behind it, to give the canopy a uniform, manicure look, or to stagger the lengths of the branches for interest.
    • Unfortunately, many flowering trees don’t get pruned at all as the flush of new leaves and growth occurs quickly after the blooming cycle.
    • By this time gardeners feel it’s too late to prune. There is also this erroneous myth that plants die if pruned at the wrong time of the year.
  •  Deciduous trees can be pruned at non-traditional times. Flowering pears, crabapples or plums must be pruned annually.
    • They produce a significant amount of unnecessary growth at the pruning points. This growth needs to be thinned out or removed before the canopy becomes a horticultural train wreck. They end up with a very dense canopy with major branches wrapped around one another. These trees tend to suffer damage during windy periods.
    • Flowering cherries are more forgiving because of their slower growth rate so you can skip a year or two and just trim the pendulous branches for shape.
    • The amount they are cut back is a judgment call on your part. It could be six inches to two feet.

Question:

 My Fountain Grass turned brown from the cold. Can I prune it now and how far back should I prune it?   If I do prune, when will it be nice and full again?

Answer:

  • It’s very common for ornamental grasses, like Fountain Grass, to turn brown from the winter cold.
  • These plants are referred to as basal plants as the new growth is always generated from the base or bottom of the plant. You will find no lateral branches. Hence, they can be pruned back to the ground every winter.
  • After Memorial Day, the growth rate will accelerate, and the plant should reach full size by mid-July, however, below normal summer temperatures will delay the growth.  I’d suggest encouraging the new growth with a hand full or two of Dr. Earth or EB Stone Organics All Purpose fertilizer in April.