Why Putting Off Your Final Pruning and Fertilizing Is A Bad Idea - Backyard Boss
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Why Putting Off Your Final Pruning and Fertilizing Is A Bad Idea

Some people often misunderstand the importance of plant care, especially the frequency at which they must care for them. Final pruning and fertilization can encourage healthy plant growth and revive your soil. Besides serving your plants and soil, final pruning and fertilizing can accentuate your landscape and improve its potential and value.

Understandably, modern life can impede plant care consistency, and occasionally, it’s okay to delay pruning and fertilizing. However, there are important periods when final pruning and fertilizing are imperative, and delaying them past that window will do your plants and landscape more harm than good.

What is Pruning?

Pruning Shears, plant care
Image credit: Lakeisha Ethans for Backyard Boss

Pruning involves removing parts of a plant to improve its health, appearance, and landscaping value. By pruning dead or ineffective plant parts, you redirect the plant’s energy to developing fruits, flowers, and limbs that remain on the plant.

There are many types of pruning cuts, and each cut stimulates a different growing response from the plant.

Different Types of Pruning Cuts and Their Growing Response

1. Heading

Deadheading Phlox, plant care
Image credits: Radovan1 via Shutterstock

This involves the removal of the terminal part of shoots or limbs. Heading promotes thick and compact regrowth near the cut. This is especially the case with hedges and ornamental shrubs. Topping, dehorning, hedging, and clipping are types of heading cuts.

2. Thinning

pruning plant care
Image credit: Lakeisha Ethans for Backyard Boss

Thinning is the removal of the lateral shoots or limbs, which causes the central node on a branch to remain the longest. As a result, new and prominent growth occurs on the undisturbed shoot tips, while bud development on lateral shoots is limited.

Compared to heading, thinning doesn’t promote profuse regrowth. Instead, it encourages the natural growth form of plants. You can use thinning primarily for maintenance.

By shortening shoots and limbs, you improve the plant’s light penetration and air circulation, boosting the regrowth of new shoots and limbs.

3. Drop-crotching 

pruning plant care
Image credit: Lakeisha Ethans for Backyard Boss

This is a form of thinning whereby you remove a main branch by cutting it back into a large lateral branch. Drop-crotching can help reduce the size of a large tree; however, many cuts along the main trunk can increase the plant’s risk of incurring severe wounds.

Effects of Putting Off Final Pruning in Plant Care

Although the timing for final pruning varies among plant species, correct timing helps to ensure attractive, healthy, and productive plants.

1. Deciduous Shrubs and Trees 

blossoming forsythia in the garden in the spring, plant care
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Deciduous shrubs like lilac and forsythia bloom in spring and shed their leaves annually. Therefore, the best time to prune them is immediately after they flower, around late winter or early spring. Pruning in this timeframe will allow you to enjoy the spring flower display and provide enough time for the plant to start new flower buds for the next season.

Without final pruning, you might encourage a late flush of growth. This new growth won’t harden enough before the arrival of cold weather and be susceptible to winter injury.

For deciduous trees, the ideal time to prune is February through March, which marks the growing season’s finally. In addition, during this time, there would be less foliage on the tree’s branches, giving you a clearer view and ensuring greater accuracy with cuts and the removal of appropriate branches.

Pro-Tip: Don’t prune deciduous trees in spring because they’re sprouting new growth; Also avoid pruning in fall when they’re shedding their leaves. This is because tree wounds at this time would take longer to heal, making them prone to infection and possibly attracting sap-feeding beetles.

2. Evergreen Shrubs

Hedges plant care
Image credit: Lakeisha Ethans for Backyard Boss

Evergreen plants retain green leaves throughout the year and generally require little pruning. However, you should prune evergreen shrubs like juniper before new growth, between late March and early April. Avoiding final pruning and cutting in fall will make the shrub vulnerable to winter injury.

Final pruning takes place at the end of a plant’s growing season to set the stage for the next growing season. By pruning at the end of the plant’s growing season, you won’t disturb new plant growth or force it to divide its energy reserves between growing new foliage, blossoming flowers, and healing cut wounds.

Putting off final pruning and cutting during a new growing season or before the end of a growing season won’t allow cut wounds to heal properly. This sadly increasing your plant’s chances of catching an infection.

What is Fertilizing 

Female hand adding fertilizer in the flowerbed, plant care
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Plants need nutrients to grow, flower, and produce fruit. While the soil can supply most nutrients to the plants, they’ll need fertilizers for healthy and consistent growth. Fertilizers range from synthetic granular fertilizers to composted manures which usually bear a number on their packaging — This number indicates the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

These are the macronutrients that plants use in large amounts as they grow. Soil testing can help inform you whether your soil has the correct nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium concentration, telling what fertilizer you will apply to your soil.

Effects of Putting Off Final Fertilizing

How and when you fertilize depends on your plants and the fertilizer you apply. Granular fertilizers are usually slow-release, meaning plants take longer to absorb them through their roots, whereas liquid fertilizers are faster to absorb. You can apply liquid fertilizers once a plant is in its growing season.

Generally, the best time to fertilize your plants is in spring, when their growth begins to peak exponentially. This will be the final fertilizer application for the growing season. However, putting off final fertilizing in spring to fertilize when a plant is dormant will encourage new growth at the wrong time of the year.

Despite this general rule, some plants, such as squash and corn, may benefit from a midsummer application. Instead of fertilizing in spring, fertilize in early summer. Here are some fertilizers to consider:

1. Miracle-Gro Plant Fertilizer

For orchids and other acid-loving plants, Miracle-Gro is a top-selling fertilizer that guarantees nourishment, rich leaf color, beautiful blooms, and strong roots. The 30-nitrogen, 10-phosphate, and 10-potassium fertilizer granules are soluble, so dilute 1 tablespoon per gallon of water before use. Apply the solution early in the day to allow the plants to dry, every two during active growth periods and every four weeks when the plant is in dormancy.   



2. RootBoost Rooting Hormone

Root Boost Hormone Feeder is a fertilizing powder used especially for plant propagation. Root Boost can transform cuttings from ornamental plants into strong, healthy plants within three to five weeks.  You don’t need to dilute the powder and can apply it to the cutting directly.



3. Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food

Osmocote is a granular fertilizer formulated for flavorful vegetables and colorful blossoms, promoting vigorous top growth and strong root development. With its nutrient content comprising a considerable; 14-nitrogen, 14-phosphorus, and 14-potassium, the resin-coated granules make the fertilizer slow-releasing and react at lower temperatures, giving plants an early and steady start in the growing season.

Refresh Your Garden Today!

Pruning and fertilizing are integral to plant care. As pruning causes wounds to plants, it involves technique and timing, so putting it off is bad for the plant’s wounds. Fertilizing is essential for healthy plants and also involves timing. You should apply the final fertilizer at your plant’s peak growth rather than when it’s dormant.

The best fertilizer from this selection would be Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Flower & Vegetable. It can impart nutrients at lower temperatures, and its formula is mild enough to stimulate strong root development and plenteous growth above-ground.

Hopefully, this article was helpful to you and gave you some clarity regarding the importance of final pruning and fertilizing in plant care. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comment section below, and share the article if you liked it.

Happy Gardening!