The growing season in Louisiana can extend from February to September. That is a good eight months in which plants are actively growing! With all this growth, it is important to know when you should and should not prune it.
Most evergreen shrubs that do not have desirable blooms – hedge type plants, can be pruned almost year round! From late fall into late winter you would want to limit any pruning to just the necessary. This will allow any new growth to harden off and be protected from the winter freezes. Starting in late winter to early spring any major or rejuvenation pruning should be done. Do this before any active growth occurs. Spring through summer maintenance hedging or pruning can be done on a regular basis.
Our blooming shrubs have different requirements. After a spring blooming plant does its thing, it will head into the summer growing. At a point in summer, usually mid to late summer (July to September, they will begin to ‘set’ their spring buds. This is where the plant cells differentiate into flower buds. This typically happens on a certain aged stem or branch, and usually occurs only during this time of year. Meaning that if it was to be pruned off, the plant would not be able to reproduce more flower buds for next spring. Most azaleas and old fashioned hydrangeas fall into this category. They set buds on old wood. This is why we need to prune them after they are done blooming and not too much later. The summer growth will be considered old wood growth, and that is where they will set the new flowers for spring.
Breeders and growers have found plants that work around this… The ever blooming azaleas (Encore) and hydrangeas (Endless Summer) are plants that set their buds on new growth and old growth. Meaning they are constantly setting new flowers buds to bloom. Giving them a haircut heading into spring will not affect their blooms in late spring into summer!
Annual and Tropical plants can be pruned any time during their growing season. Just give them a haircut when they look tired, leggy, or have spent blooms. They will bounce back within a few weeks with great gusto!
Most mature trees do not need regular pruning. At a young age I would recommend pruning every other year to three years to give them the shape they need. After that, cleaning out smaller branches in the interior of the tree helps open them up and lets us enjoy the structure of the tree. You can do most smaller pruning of limbs any time of the year, but if you plan on major pruning (several branches larger than your arm) wait till late fall and winter. During those times, the sap of the tree is pulling away from the branches and being stored in the trunk and roots of the tree. So your cutting off limbs will not stress the tree out as much.
At the end of the day, if that branch keeps hitting you in the face as you mow… Take it out! If that shrub is not shaped right – fix it! If those annuals are hiding your window – cut them down! Your garden is your creation, guide it in a way that you will enjoy it day after every day