Pruning Your LandscapeMy Nassau Sun Logo

Florida State Road 9-A, one of Jacksonville’s newest beltways, has plantings of handsome, growing trees from JTB to I-95. When you drive that way enjoy the diverse shapes of the live oaks, bald cypress, crape myrtles, pines, river birch, and magnolias. These trees, shaped and pruned in their nurseries, display their individual spreading, pyramidal, vase, and columnar shapes.

One of the most important parts of successful nursery grown plants is proper pruning, and we need to continue the job once we own the greenery. We prune to shape a tree, to promote its health, provide clearance from buildings, cars, and pedestrians, to reduce shade and wind resistance, to improve the view, and to positively influence flower and fruit growth.

It is far better to prune trees regularly over their lifetime so the removal of large branches becomes unnecessary. The twenty-five year plan developed by the University of Florida for shade trees recommends pruning trees at planting and 2, 4, 8, 14, 20 and 25 years after planting for best results. See

Tree pruning can be dangerous work for a homeowner and selecting a certified arborist to do the work is often recommended.

Winter is an excellent time to prune live branches as defects can easily be seen and corrected especially in deciduous trees. Dormant pruning (just before new growth begins) reduces pest problems associated with pruning and gives the tree time to heal pruning wounds during the spring and summer growth period. Dead branches and limbs can be cut at any time of the year.

If you haven’t pruned regularly and your shrubs are growing over your windows consider removing them and select new plants of compact or dwarf varieties which are more likely to retain the proper size as foundation plants. Overgrown shrubs next to the house promote moisture, damage from wind-blown branches, and can be a security hazards. All plants have a life expectancy, and leaning, leggy, top-heavy, ‘bare legged’ small trees with sparse foliage do not add to the visual appeal or value of your home.

Shrubs should be pruned to shape the plants or to produce a thinner canopy edge to allow light to penetrate into the interior and promote leaf growth within the plant. First eliminate dead or broken branches and those that cross over or touch another branch. Next, cut back some of the oldest branches and head back others to 6 – 12” lower than the desired height. Use hand pruning method of selecting and cutting different heights rather than shearing just the outside of the shrub. Shearing produces a shrub with dense outer tips and a bare interior.

If you are considering removing shrubs due to overgrowth you might try a severe pruning. ‘Shocking’ a shrub with severe pruning may produce a better plant but the pruning method is selective and not shearing.  See



Candace Bridegwater

Candace Bridgewater lives on Amelia Island
is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.