It’s a sunny day in February, the weather creeps above 40 degrees, the snow patches are few and far between, and you’re just itching to get outside and work in the garden. It can be tempting to want to get an early start on pruning, but STOP! Don’t do it! Oftentimes, plants on Colorado’s front range are not in their natural habitat. If something were to cause your plant to lose branches and die back, it’s most likely to happen during the late winter. Pruning too early will leave the plant with fewer viable branches. Also, the plant provides itself with a bit of insulation and so pruning back now can allow cold air to get inside, encouraging further dieback.
Instead of pruning, enjoy the nice day and take a walk through your yard. Imagine your new plans for later in the year, browse websites and catalogs for the newest plants or yard decorations, pin a few new ideas to your Pinterest board. Continue your winter watering (read more about that here), but leave those pruners safely tucked away for a while.
Exception to the rule: Late winter is a good time to prune non-flowering trees. For northern Colorado, this can mean the end of February if it seems the coldest part of winter has passed. Trees are most likely still dormant at this time, and so wounds will repair more quickly prior to new growth. Flowering plants should not be pruned until the late spring or summer after they have bloomed.