5 plants that ‘shouldn’t’ be pruned in winter to avoid ‘damage’

Monty Don details the correct way to prune fruit plants

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The aim of winter pruning is to encourage vigour so that fruit trees are productive and shrubs don’t outgrow their space. This is the time to prune roses and reshape fruit bushes and trees. However Matt Jordan, gardening expert for The Greenhouse People spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk, warning that there are five plants that gardeners “shouldn’t prune” at this time.

He said: “While plenty of plants prefer pruning during the dormant winter period, there are equally several plants that will suffer from winter pruning. Knowing the difference can help gardeners achieve the healthy and blooming gardening of their dreams. Here are the plants gardeners should leave alone this winter for a healthy spring.”

1. Clematis 

While some varieties of clematis benefit from a hard prune in winter, pruning clematis at the wrong time of year “can be damaging” and leave gardeners with a “flowerless plant” next season.

Matt said: “Whether or not you prune in winter will all depend on which group your clematis plant is categorised by.”

Group one encompasses all early-flowering varieties, typically before June. As a rule of thumb, clematis plants should be lightly pruned after they finish blooming. For winter-flowering varieties, gardeners will want to save any pruning until the beginning of spring when you can remove dead stems and flowers.

Group two sees all large-flowered clematis that bloom in early summer. These should be deadheaded after flowering in summer to promote future blooms and can be lightly pruned in winter.

Group three varieties require a hard prune during their dormancy over winter. Gardeners can tell if their clematis falls into group three by whether it flowers in later summer.

2. Rosemary

While rosemary doesn’t strictly need to be pruned to stay healthy, gardeners may choose to cut back their rosemary to help promote bushier growth or simply to tidy up their plants.

However, woody plants, such as rosemary and lavender need time to harden new growth and protect themselves from harsh winter frosts.

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That’s why it’s important to do any cutting back in the spring and summer months during periods of growth, allowing a minimum of a month before the first frost arrives.

3. Ornamental grasses 

Grasses can be an excellent way to add texture and variety to garden borders. Though it’s important gardeners trim them at appropriate times to keep them from looking “too unruly”, urged the gardening pro.

He said: “It’s best to leave any tidying up until just before new regrowth begins, typically in early spring. Evergreen grasses may simply need a light trim to take off any browning tips and remove dead leaves.”

Some deciduous grasses, however, will need cutting down to ground level to promote new growth. Whether this is done during early spring or later in the season will all depend on the grass variety and its growing season.

4. Bleeder trees 

Although plenty of deciduous tree varieties benefit from winter pruning, bleeder trees such as acers, walnut, willow, birch and beech are “best left alone” in the cooler months, instructed Matt.

This is because cutting into the bark during the winter period will cause the tree to “bleed sap” which not only creates a “sticky mess” but also “weakens trees” since they lose “essential nutrients and moisture”.

Instead the expert said: “It’s better to leave pruning bleeder trees until early summer to allow sap flow to reduce. 

“If the tree does bleed a bit during summer, don’t panic – the heat can help wounds heal quicker and prevent the risk of diseases.”

5. Fuchsia

With beautiful blooms of pink, purple and white, fuchsia plants are sure to be an admired and treasured addition to any garden.

Matt explained: “Fuchsia flowers only appear on new wood, so gardeners shouldn’t be afraid to give fuchsias a hard prune to promote new growth.

“However, fuchsias are susceptible to frost damage and may need some extra help in the winter months. For hardy fuchsias, this means leaving them alone to allow the old growth to protect the plant’s crown and avoid any risk of diseases from cuts.”

Tender varieties should be cut back in autumn ahead of the first frost and prepped for overwintering.

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