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What woody plants pruning in December? – For these varieties winter is the perfect time for pruning

The winter season could be an ideal time for sophisticated garden maintenance, with certain woody plants even better pruned in December. For most deciduous trees and shrubs, late fall is actually the right time to prune, but not for all plant varieties. Discover some useful information below to help you get this gardening job done.

Why prune some woody plants in December?

woman in the garden cuts shrubs with garden shears in autumn

As a general rule, removing dead, diseased and damaged wood helps prevent the spread of disease and infection in trees and shrubs. In addition, the appropriate structure can complement the natural growth habits of the tree. This allows the plant to support a full fruit load. Opening the interior of the tree to sunlight also further aids in the development of flower buds and more even fruit ripening. Air similarly needs to be able to move through garden plants, otherwise moisture accumulates that can spread disease. Indeed, for some winter dormant varieties, pruning can be quite useful for these purposes.

use garden shears and prune autumn raspberries as woody plants in december

Dormant pruning should take place before buds begin to swell, which can easily be done during the winter months. Most tree diseases also go dormant in the winter, limiting their spread. In addition, many garden plants can benefit from winter pruning, though it is important to do it the right way at the right time of year. The main goal of winter pruning is to promote vigor so that fruit trees are productive and shrubs do not outgrow their space. So this is the time to cut back flowering shrubs like roses and clematis, or reshape fruit shrubs and trees. Before you start, it’s wise to prepare by following a few simple steps.

Basic tips for pruning in winter

provide the gardening tools and help needed to prune trees in winter

If you remember these few basic rules, you’ll be safe on the job and get better results:

  • First, make sure your garden tools like pruning shears are sharp and well-maintained. A clean cut causes less damage to branches and heals faster, so your plants are less likely to be affected by disease or frost.
  • Work slowly and step back frequently to see what you’ve done and assess what still needs to be removed.
  • Be careful when working at heights. It is a good idea to have someone else with you when you are on a ladder pruning your woody plants in December. Try not to take any chances when doing this. If the work is too involved, consult a professional tree surgeon.

Once the leaves have fallen off, it’s easy to see the framework of a plant. By following these steps to some of the major plants that need pruning, it’s easy to get started. While plants are dormant, it’s also a good time to do a refreshing pruning to revive certain growths that can become large and unproductive, such as snowball or mahonia. However, some plant varieties are better cut back in the spring, while others are best left until summer or fall. Below are some of the most common varieties in the garden that are suitable for winter pruning.

Prune vines as woody plants in December.

prune vines already in winter or late autumn for better harvests


Grapevines are woody, deciduous plants that ooze sap or “bleed,” so to speak, when pruned. When this happens to cut stems, it can weaken the plant. Therefore, it is important to prune grapevine plants in the middle of winter when they are deep in dormancy. Other plants that bleed when pruned include maple, birch and fig. Prune back in December or January, cutting back to a main cane or branch extended vertically along the support wires.

Prune raspberries bearing in the fall.

prune raspberries close to the ground in late fall to encourage growth

Each year from fall to late winter, prune all shoots of fall-bearing raspberries to within 5 inches of the ground. This encourages them to send up fresh new stems that will bear fruit next fall. If you don’t want the canes to grow too fast, you can use trellises with wire to tie them to.

Woody vine (clematis) pruning group 3.

pruning of clematis or wood vines in december for winter gardening


Group 3 clematis bloom in midsummer. Prune such plants in December or February, cutting the plant to 10 inches above the ground to remove long, old growth and encourage heavily flowering shoots. Cut back hybrid plant varieties to ground level before new growth emerges. Most other clematis groups require only light tidying after flowering.

Prune bluegum (wisteria) woody plants in December.

cut back blue ivy or wisteria after flowering in late autumn

Wisteria should be pruned twice a year, in December and again in summer, to keep it in check and encourage flowering. Cut back all side shoots to three or four buds in the winter. Then do the same after summer bloom, cutting back all windy shoots to 30 inches.

Prune fruit-bearing shrubs properly

proper pruning of branches on fruit trees as woody plants in december as a hobby gardener

Fruit-bearing shrubs, including blueberries and black currants, as well as gooseberries and red currants, should also be pruned in winter. As a general rule, remove some old wood from shrubs each year to create a calyx shape and leave healthy young branches that will produce more abundant crops in future years.

Pruning rose bushes in winter

hobby gardener wants to cut roses as december woody plants

Shrub and climbing roses should be pruned back heavily in late fall or winter, thereby promoting healthy growth, flowering shoots and abundant blooms in summer. Many types of roses can be pruned easily during the winter period, including noble roses, tea hybrids, shrub roses and, of course, climbing roses. However, the latter should also be pruned in late summer, but can be renewed in winter. The general rule here is to cut back thin, weak stems the most and thick, strong stems the least. Try to leave such plants with a height between 15 cm and 45 cm, depending on the original size of the plant and your preferences.

Pruning apple and pear trees as woody plants in December

prune apple tree or pear in autumn when gardening wine bottle

Tree species such as apples and pears could even still be pruned from November to mid-March to encourage fruiting. Pruning accordingly helps to maintain a good harvest by directing energy to the remaining buds. When doing this, it’s best to try to create a wine glass shape, with branches rising at even intervals from the trunk in a circle around a hollow center. Cut off all shoots at the base and remove dead, diseased or crossing branches. However, do not prune stone fruit such as cherries or plums in winter because they run the risk of being infected by a fungal disease called silverleaf. Instead, prune such trees in early or mid-summer.

Prune ornamental trees in late fall or winter.

garden plants like trees and shrubs to prune as woody plants in december and prevent disease infestation

Remove smaller branches from deciduous and ornamental trees from November to March as well to maintain a clean, bare trunk at least 90-120 inches tall. Accordingly, prune branches that obstruct access or block mowing. However, proceed with caution and thin out rather than cutting off the entire canopy.

Cut back deciduous shrubs in December.

fruit trees and fruit bearing shrubs to prune in autumn as an important step in gardening

You can prune deciduous shrubs just as well in winter, especially those that are growing too large for their allotted space. In addition, such refreshing pruning revives such plant varieties that can grow large and unproductive, such as wig bushes, barberry, flowering currants and magnolias.

What else to do in the garden in December, you can learn here .