November is the perfect month for some fall cleaning. This fall season you can trim your deciduous trees, fruit bushes, most shrubs, and some perennials that thrive during summer but are now waning.
Of course, you can’t just prune any plant and hope for the best because some should be left alone in fall and winter.
Here’s an overview of the ornamentals and edibles you can prune in November to give them a new lease of life come spring!
Let’s get started!
#1 Angel’s Trumpet
There’s not a single person I know that will say they don’t love angel’s trumpets (aka brugmansia).
Their hanging, snow white, bright yellow, fiery orange, and seductively red flowers are highly fragrant and thrive in warm temperatures.
And if you don’t live in a tropical or subtropical climate, you can always take these plants indoors once the outdoor temperatures plunge below 45-50˚F.
Angel’s trumpets grow like crazy and desperately need regular pruning to keep their spreading in control. Give them a good prune once you take them indoors in fall.
Regular trimming will not only control their growth, but also promote more abundant flowering because this plant blooms on new wood.
Warning: Angel’s trumpet releases sap when cut and can irritate the skin, so make sure to wear gardening gloves when pruning it.
Japanese barberry is one of my favorite bushes and you can find it on the list of plants to keep in the winter garden.
It is low maintenance, adds visual interest with its red leaves and berries, and you can use it as a privacy shrub or plant a barberry hedge.
And when it comes to pruning, you should only prune deciduous varieties in November, not the evergreen ones (they are best trimmed in winter).
Deciduous barberry doesn’t require a lot of pruning, but you should do it regularly to keep it in check. And since it has thorns, you should try using some of these heavy duty gloves for cactus handling.
When cutting back barberry, always start with the dead, damaged, or diseased branches and then remove a couple of the oldest ones, pruning them all to the ground.
This will promote new growth the following year that will carry more leaves and berries than the old and damaged wood ever could.
Also, you can give these shrubs a complete makeover and cut them to the ground to rejuvenate them in spring. This will stimulate a lot of new growth and wood, but you won’t get any flowers that year.
Warning: Japanese barberry is invasive and can overcrowd native plants in your local ecosystem, so make sure to keep it in check
Many perennial flowers benefit from fall pruning. This includes coneflowers, phlox, shasta daisies, and, of course, delphiniums.
This will give your garden a clean look and prevent the waning stems and foliage from harboring diseases and pests that come to life in spring.
And if you’re wondering how to prune delphiniums in fall, know that it’s fairly simple. Cut the entire plant back to about 2-3 inches above the ground and you’re done.
These plants don’t look good in winter gardens all covered in snow because they flop and create shapeless blobs all around.
Pro tip: Throw the cut delphiniums onto your compost pile if there are no signs of pests or diseases.
#4 Fruit Bushes
If you’ve ever wondered when and how to prune blackcurrants, blueberries, and other soft fruiting bushes, it’s in November.
This fall job is best done when they enter their dormant state because it will cause less shock. Trim them annually, and you’ll get healthy and thriving bushes just like that.
The exact way of cutting them back will depend on the bush you have, but the general idea is to first remove the dead, diseased, damaged, and broken branches, then move onto the ones that overlap, and finally open up the center.
Pro tip: Always check the pruning requirements of a particular fruit bush so that you can prune it the right way.
#5 Fruit Trees
November is the perfect time to start cutting back your fruiting (and ornamental) trees. And the best part is that if you learn how and when to prune apple trees, you basically have the knowledge for trimming pear, citrus, and other fruit trees.
However, not all fruit trees are the same. Avoid cutting back peach, plum, cherry, and other stone trees during this time. Tackle that job in early spring (or immediately after fruiting when it comes to cherries).
Pruning most fruit trees during dormancy will make them go through less of a shock, but not when it comes to stone trees. It can make them more prone to diseases, less cold hardy, and cause them to die back.
When pruning your fruit trees, always start by removing damaged, diseased, dead, or broken branches. Then, remove the suckers (if any) and open up the center so that the light can get to the innermost parts and also to improve air circulation.
This technique will allow you to keep your trees in check and improve your harvest the following season.
Pro tip: Never remove more than a third of the entire growth since that can harm your tree and make it more difficult to recover.
Hellebore is an early-season-bloomer with flowers appearing as early as late winter in certain regions.
These perennials have a lot to offer, especially when combined with colorful flowers and bulbs.
When pruning hellebores, you have two options: remove all leaves or just some of them.
Prune all foliage to the ground to make room for emerging flowers, or only trim the dead, diseased, and discolored ones in November. Then, as the flowers begin to emerge, you can go ahead and remove the rest of the old leaves.
After trimming, mulch your hellebores with compost or leaf mulch afterwards, and that’s it.
Pro tip: Wear gardening gloves when pruning hellebores because their sap can irritate the skin.
Add a shadbush or any small tree or shrub to your small front yard to make it look bigger. And not only that, it will add more interest to your garden throughout the year, decorating it with white flowers in spring, berries in summer, and colorful foliage in fall.
You can also find dwarf varieties that you can plant in a planter and place on your patio.
The best part about the shadbush, whether in-ground or container-grown, is that it doesn’t require heavy-duty pruning.
Remove diseased, dead, and damaged branches from November until February and shape its canopy a bit or remove the lateral limbs if you want a single-branch tree.
What I love about pruning trees and shrubs during dormancy is that you can see the framework of the entire tree, giving you the best view and easy access.
Warning: Don’t prune shadbushes too heavily in November because it may cause them to flower less abundantly in spring.
Plants To Avoid Cutting Back In Fall
As you can see, you can trim many garden habitants in fall, but there are also plants you should never prune in fall, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, lilacs, Russian sage, most hydrangea varieties, etc.
These varieties bloom on old wood and set their buds in fall. Autumnal pruning would remove all these buds and you’d end up with little-to-no flowers the following year.
Prune these plants as soon as they finish flowering, and you’ll encourage new growth without risking a poor flowering season.