Issue: April 12, 2008

Pruning trees in spring after they make leaves is not good


I was busy and did not get my cottonwood trees pruned. Now they have leaves. Is it too late to prune them? If it matters, I live near Socorro.



This is the worst time to prune trees. Now that the tree has expended its stored energy to produce the new leaves, pruning now would be quite debilitating for the tree. The tree would draw on the remaining stored resources to replace what was pruned, but these resources may be needed to fight disease or insect attack. The tree would be at great risk from such attacks if you pruned now.

However, with this warning presented, there may be good reasons for pruning now. If the branches pose a risk because they are low and obstructing traffic or creating safety problems, they should be pruned. If the branches present risk of damage to structures by rubbing against shingles or other parts of the structure, they should be pruned. However, keep pruning of large, living branches to a minimum. If you can wait until fall, that would be my recommendation, but do not wait if safety is a factor.

If the branches are dead, it will do no harm to remove the branches now. In fact, now is an excellent time to prune dead branches because they are more obvious.

Remove daffodils old blossom, but leave the leaves


My daffodils have finished blooming. Now the old flower stalk has what looks like a seed pod forming. Should I cut this seed pod and the leaves, or should I leave them?

Tony K.
Truth or Consequences


It would be a good decision to remove the old flower head and the seed capsule that is forming. However, leave the leaves until they turn yellow.

Allowing seeds to develop will divert food produced in the leaves from the bulb to the seed. This may reduce flowering next year.

Cutting the leaves now will prevent them from producing food for the bulb. This can reduce flowering next year. If the leaves are in the way, they may be braded to make room for other plants that will take the place of the daffodils in the garden during the summer, but leave the leaves until they have completed their work and die on their own.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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