80801thumbNot many plants are sensitive to mere heat alone. Actually, many plants prefer warm weather. The difficulty that some plants have with heat locally is that it typically accompanies aridity, and often accompanies afternoon breezes. As appealing as breezes and minimal humidity are to us while the weather is warm, they promote and accelerate desiccation of exposed sensitive foliage.

Pruning, which obviously becomes necessary while warm weather promotes growth, can make plants more sensitive to damage caused by warm, sunny, arid and perhaps breezy weather. It exposes formerly sheltered stems and inner foliage, which are more sensitive than outer foliage is, to more sunlight and drying breezes. Exposed foliage can either desiccate or roast, or both!

A bit of unsightly but relatively minor foliar damage on the extremities of the outer canopy might be only superficial, but major damage can be dangerous. Superficial damage often gets replaced by fresh new growth before it deteriorates enough to expose more foliage and stems below. However, recovery from major damage can be delayed by the distress associated with the damage.

Japanese maple, aralia, philodendron, rhododendron and all sorts of ferns can easily get damaged by increased exposure. Low ferns are not likely to become too exposed by any loss of their own foliage, but often become more exposed by the pruning of plants above them. Like frost damage, foliar scorch might need to be left to shelter remaining foliage until new growth develops.

The bark of many plants, although not susceptible to desiccation, is very sensitive to sun-scald if too exposed. Young and smooth bark is the most sensitive, particularly if it had always been shaded. Scald kills bark and the vascular tissue below. As it decays, it exposes interior wood to more decay that is likely to compromise the structural integrity of the affected stems and trunks.

Pruning during relatively cool weather and while there are a few relatively cool days in the forecast allows foliage a bit of time to adapt to a new exposure before the weather gets dangerous. Through summer, pruning should not be so aggressive that too much sensitive foliage or bark are exposed, even if it is necessary to leave a bit of unwanted sloppy growth to partly shade bark. Aggressive pruning of exposed and sensitive plants should be delayed until autumn, when sunlight is not so intense, and weather is cooler and wetter.

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4 thoughts on “The Wrong Time For Pruning

  1. This is a really great reminder and I know it’s something no one thinks about. Most of us think “well, it’s warm, so it’s fine to do this, ,” or worse yet, “well, this is the day that I have, so it’s going to get done.”

    Karla

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. So many of us do it when we think about doing it. It is much worse when so-called ‘gardeners’ prune at the wrong time, because they get paid to do it properly.

      Like

  2. I just did a bit of pruning this week – mostly very light except for the Spicebush, which had a lot of dead stems. But the weather here has been cool and rainy for the most part, so I’m not too worried.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pruning out dead stems is not quite the same as pruning out viable stems. Unless there is enough dead stems to make significant shade, the plants from which they get removed do not miss them. My articles are written for the gardening column, which has limited space.

      Liked by 1 person

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