Gardentalk – Now is the time to do mid-season pruning of maples, azaleas and rhododendrons

North Douglas maple tree. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Pruning trees and bushes can be a perennial activity for any active gardener.

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski answers more pruning questions in the latest episode of Gardentalk.

Richard writes: “When is the best time to prune your tree? I’ve got a sugar maple.”

And, Helen writes: “When is it OK to prune and shape a Japanese maple? I live in central New Jersey.”

Buyarski said now and into July is actually a good time to prune maples for shaping because it will not stimulate a lot of new growth.

“If it’s too tall and people might want to prune for branches going wider,” Buyarski explains.

For Japanese maples, he says there are a variety of YouTube and other video tutorials on creative shaping of trees.

For maples, don’t leave any stubs and cut as close to the main branch as you can.

Buyarski also suggests making sure that all of your pruning tools are sharp. It will be easier to make nice, clean cuts.

If you are pruning a tree way up high, then he also recommends recruiting someone to help as a safety person and as a ground-level spotter on the best branches to cut.

Annette writes: “When is the best time to prune azaleas and gardenias?”

Buyarski said azaleas and rhododendrons, a somewhat-related shrub, should be pruned right after they’re done blooming and when new shoots start emerging which will flower next year.

“The fading flower remnants, which we would also want to clean off, snap off those, deadhead basically, that we will want to do that while we’re pruning,” Buyarski says. “So, that timing is good.”

Buyarski says pruning azaleas and rhododendrons is exactly the opposite of avoiding leaving stubs while pruning maples. Hidden buds will later pop out on a bare azalea and rhododendron branch.

He said he has no experience with gardenias and is not able to provide advice for that shrub.

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