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Pruning Native Trees & Shrubs

Toyon. Photo: PxHere
Toyon. Photo: PxHere

Native plants are plants that grew in Marin and other California counties before European contact.  Non-native plants are plants that have been introduced to Marin and other California counties as a result of European contact. 

Much of the pruning guidance given in the section on “Pruning Fundamentals” applies equally to native plants. However, there are important differences. 

WHEN to prune natives

Like non-native plants, some native plants flower and fruit on new wood, some on old wood and some on both. Research the native plants in your garden, or click on the pruning tips below for common native plants.

Natives follow a different timetable
Like non-native plants, some native plants flower and fruit on new wood, some on old wood and some on both. However, the timetable for major pruning of natives does not usually follow the same cycle as non-native plants, which tend to enter dormancy when days shorten and temperatures cool - hence major pruning for non-natives occurs in the winter. 

Summer dormancy is typical for natives
Most native plants tend to enter dormancy when days lengthen and temperatures warm. That is, many native plants have adapted to Marin’s hot, dry summer weather by entering dormancy when rainfall is scarce. 

Major pruning of these plants occurs in the summer. However, pruning native plants can vary depending upon the characteristics of the plant that the gardener wants to promote.

WHAT to Prune

Some native plants are prized for their flowers, some for their fruit, some for their leaf color and texture, and some for their branch structure. Therefore, what a gardener decides to remove is often guided by what that gardener prizes in a native plant and wants to accent. 

 

Additional Resources

Pruning Native Plants (Parts 1-4), A. Levin (California Native Plant Society, 2011)

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Pruning Tips for Native Plants & Trees

Below are pruning tips and advice for commonly found native plants and trees in Marin gardens. Click to learn more!