Not sure when to prune your strawberry tree?
We get a lot of questions about when is a good time to prune strawberry tree. That’s because timing pruning on these large shrub/small trees can be tricky.
Hey, if you need more help getting past your biggest gardening challenges, SIGN UP TO BE NOTIFIED right now and get some free gardening downloads in the process. That way you’ll be first in line when we re-open enrollment to our LIMITED garden coaching and gardening training online programs. And these are the best and fastest ways we can help you improve your gardening skills
Why is timing trimming so tricky with these plants?
There are a few main considerations to make before you pick up your pruning tools:
- Do you want a privacy hedge?
- Or, do you want a tree?
- Do you want (edible) fruit?
- Do you mind missing out on some blooms?
- Are you renovating the plant from a prior bad pruning job?
Let’s be sure we’re talking about the same “strawberry trees”.
Plant common names can lead to confusion. That’s because many very different plants are each called by the same common name.
When we refer to strawberry trees, we mean Arbutus unedo.
Arbutus unedo is a Mediterranean cousin of Arbutus menziesii. And A. menziesii is the Pacific madrone or madrona tree.
A. unedo grows into a beautiful shrub or tree. And, it graces gardens in many areas with many seasons of interest including:
- Strawberry trees grow beautifully peel reddish bark.
- And, it has shiny evergreen leaves.
- Plus, it blooms from late autumn through winter in the northern hemisphere.
- And, it’s fruits beginning ripening just as those flowers open.
Now that we’ve clarified which potential strawberry tree we’re focused on, let’s get into when to prune. And, let’s do that by considering what happens each season with this plant.
So should you prune your strawberry tree in fall and winter?
Because strawberry trees bloom and form beautiful ripe fruits in early autumn, that’s not an ideal time to prune. If you do prune this time of year, you’d lose out on its bloom season. Plus, if you cut off those flowers, they can’t get pollinated and form fruit for the following year. And, if you cut off ripening fruit, you could eat the fruit. But, you’ll miss out on all of the beauty that comes as they ripen.
And, if you prune in deep winter after the ripe fruit is already harvested, take care:
- You’ll likely be cutting off lingering blooms.
- And you’ll likely trim out some immature fruits scheduled to mature next year.
- Plus, if you’re in a freeze, you could easily break limbs.
- And there is a chance, you’ll stimulate delicate new growth that could succumb to a later freeze.
- This is especially true if you’re shearing a hedge.
- Plus, if you hedge a plant in fall or winter, it’s going to look really ugly and chopped up until spring.
Okay, so should I prune in spring instead?
If you decide to prune in spring, you’re still going to be cutting off immature fruits. And, if you wait until late spring, you may cutting off new little flower buds that are revving up to open in autumn. But, if you want to shape up that hedge, early spring is a pretty good time. That’s because the plant will put on soft new growth soon, and your strawberry tree won’t look chopped up for very long.
Okay, what if I wait until summer to prune my strawberry tree?
If you wait until summer to prune this plant, you’ll be cutting off the fruit that’s almost ripe. And, you’ll be removing flowers readying to open in the autumn months ahead.
So, with Arbutus undeo you always forfeit something when you prune.
When you decide to prune your plant is going to be based your needs. But, it’s quite likely that choosing late winter/early spring to prune your strawberry tree may be best. That’s because:
- It’s less likely you will cause winter injury.
- Hedge shearing, which we don’t really prefer for this plant, should recover quickly.
- And, you’ll loose some immature fruits.
- But, if your timing is right, you aren’t likely to lose a lot of flowers.