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chad austin

Pruning a flowering crab

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I have a flowering crab tree in my front yard that needs some

heavy pruning as it never has been pruned (not the way it should be).

The tree is about 12 years old and appears to be healthy

but is over grown.

What time of the year can I cut this whithout doing harm to the tree

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I believe you want to prune flowering trees late spring-summer after they bloom.

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The general rule of thumb is to prune in the opposite season the tree flowers in. I'd recommend going with a fall pruning.

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hmmm...I thought i heard that fall pruning on flowering trees minimizes the amount of flowers in the spring.

From the U of M Extension service..."Prune apple trees, including flowering crabapples, mountain ash, hawthorns and shrub cotoneasters in late winter (February-early April). Spring or summer pruning increases chances for infection and spread of the bacterial disease fireblight. Autumn or early winter pruning is more likely to result in drying and die-back at pruning sites. "

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I agree that dormant pruning is the best. The reason they say pruning in the dormant will reduce the number of flowers is because the flower buds are already on the tree in the fall. Removing branches, removes, buds, which removes some flowers. No matter when you prune it you will have fewer flowers the following year because you are going to remove branches...on this tree probably as much as 1/3 of the branches.

I've always pruned crabs, apples, hawthornes, etc in the early winter. I've never experienced further die-back.

I would say you can prune right now if you plan on doing it in the next week or so, but, otherwise I would wait until next winter.

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If you do it consider dipping the sheers in a mild solution of bleech and water between each cut. There's all sorts of nasty stuff that can get started like fire blight and it will kill a tree in a heartbeat. Go to the Ag Extension service HSOforum and they'll have a ton of info on pruning fruit trees.

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