Fall Pruning

Landscaping Made Easy: Fall Pruning in the Southwest 

by Mike Dooley

Fall pruning can be a bit intimidating. Here are a few “Cliff Notes” of landscape maintenance that will help.

Evergreen Shrubs
If you are a “Neat Nick,” take electric or manual hedge trimmers and shape shrubs up after they bloom. Avoid box or ball shapes. Prefect shearing results in a very formal look and increases maintenance needs.

If you like the “natural” look, follow the same procedure, but use hand pruners. Prune the branches at different heights so it looks more natural.

Most perennials should be cut back to the “green wood” in late fall to early spring. Start at the top of the plant and scratch it with your fingernail. If it is brown or brittle then keep moving down the stem scratching as you go.

When the wood under the scratch is green, that’s “green wood” and that is where you prune it.

Ornamental Grasses
Tie up the clump with string (this will help with the cleanup) and cut it down as low as you can, but leave at least three or four inches. This can be done in fall, or if you like the “tawny” look through the winter, cut it back in early spring. If you have the short Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa), you can just comb out the dead leaves with your fingers in late spring — or anytime you get the urge — rather than pruning it.

What we are trying to do with most vines is to keep them from taking over the known world. After they bloom heavily, cut them back to a little smaller than you want them to ultimately be. If the vine doesn’t bloom, cut it back anytime in the spring, summer or early fall.

Happy Gardening!