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The key to pruning is understanding how your plants grow and how pruning affects them.
Most trees should be pruned in winter. But if your deciduous tree struggled in 2011's heat and drought, and you were waiting until they leafed out to see which areas were truly dead, you can go ahead and prune out any obviously dead growth now. Be sure to use pruning paint on any oaks that aresusceptible to oak wilt that you need to prune. Generally, we want to prune them between July 1 and February.
Shrubs, especially those that require hedging, should be pruned now, before temperatures really heat up. Be sure to use sharp shears when pruning hedges, so that you make a clean cut-you don't want the tops to have torn leaf edges that not only look unsightly, but also heal less quickly and serve as an open door for disease pathogens to move right in.
Now is the time prune spring-flowering shrubs, and roses to lightly shape them. Avoid severe pruning right now. Pruning encourages new growth which the plant may not be able to handle in hot weather and low rainfall.
If your spring flowering perennials have finished flowering, go ahead and clean those up a bit to encourage them to put on a flush of new growth, and perhaps even flower again, depending on each plant. As we head into heat, avoid dramatic pruning that will stress the plants. Simply cut back a few inches to shape.
And if you have any plants that bloom all summer but have started to slow down a bit in the heat, a little dead-heading, to remove spent blooms, will encourage new blooms to form faster.
It's also a great idea to give a light dose of fertilizer to plants that have just finished blooming. Flowering and forming seeds takes a lot of energy, and replenishing some of a plants nutrients, so that it can rebuild its own body after having given so much of its precious energy to the next generation, is a good idea.
But just a light dose. We're coming in to the heat of summer now, and you don't want to encourage your plants to grow too much at such a stressful time of year.