Pruning & Deer Resistant Landscape


By Franklin Laemmlen, Ph.D., Master Gardener


Q:        When should I prune roses and fruit trees?


A:         Research on pruning has changed our thinking about this activity. There are several times during the year when it is appropriate to prune. Traditionally, pruning of deciduous plants occurs when the plant is dormant or as dormant as possible. That means, for roses and fruit trees, December and January are the months to do heavy pruning for reshaping the tree or bush and preparing for next year’s fruit or blossom crop.


However, research has shown that fruit trees can also be pruned during the summer, usually right after harvest. Rose bushes can also be pruned in the summer. If this is done, especially in roses, buds will break dormancy, and the plant will continue to grow. However, as you might guess, flower production will be curtailed for a period of time. In fruit trees there will also be some regrowth, if summer pruned, and you may need to do some “touch up” pruning in the winter.


If you prune during the summer, the wounds you make will close (seal) very quickly as the plant is actively growing and will quickly produce wound closing structures in active wood. The process of wound closure is slower when the plant is dormant. In some situations, where disease organisms are present which can attack wounds, summer pruning is recommended for the above reason. Also in California there is no summer rain, so wounds dry quickly and become resistant to pathogen attack.


In summary, fruit trees can be pruned dormant or after harvest. Deciduous bushes and shrubs can be pruned any time, but flower production will be disrupted. Light pruning or trimming can be done any time.


Author’s Notes:


The following is some more information about developing a deer-resistant landscape. The following plants have been found to be avoided by deer except under starvation conditions.




·         Lavandula spp. – lavender

·         Herbs – mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme

·         Narcissus spp. – narcissus and daffodils

·         Ornamental grasses – Miscanthus, Pennisetum, Panicum, Festuca, and Calamagrostis.




·         Ageratum houstonianum – floss flower

·         Tagetes spp. – marigold

·         Zinnia spp. – Zinnias




·         Acer palmatum – Japanese maple

·         Pinus sp. – Pine

·         Picea sp. – Spruce




·         Pieris japonica – Japanese andromeda

·         Bamboos

·         Buddleia spp. – Butterfly bush

·         Nandina domestica – Heavenly bamboo

·         Kerria japonica – Japanese Kerria

·         Leucothoe fontanesiana – Leucothoe

·         Kalmia latifolia – Mountain laurel

·         Nerium oleander – Oleander


Ground Covers


·         Pachysandra terminalis – Japanese pachysandra

·         Vinca minor – Myrthe

·         Galium odoratum – sweet woodruff


Check these species for suitability for planting in your climate and soil sites. Some may not be suited to your situation.

University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers can provide additional gardening information upon request .Call the San Luis Obispo office at 781-5939 on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 5 PM.  You may also call the Paso Robles office at 237-3100 on Wednesdays from 9 AM to 12 PM.  The San Luis Obispo Master Gardeners website is at  Questions can be e-mailed to: