When should you prune trees and shrubs in Central Florida? We certainly have different planting seasons, and it stands to reason that the time to prune is likewise different.

As it happens, pruning time is not that different, although we don’t have leaf fall like the North to help us determine the time. Flowering shrubs are still pruned after flowering, and trees are usually pruned in the dormant season. Pruning cold damage is a special issue for Florida because our growing season can last all year long. Timing this pruning can depend on the weather forecast and aesthetic goals.

The next topic is how to prune. Where exactly do you make a cut? This is an art and a science, and few untrained people perform it correctly. Locating the collar on a tree branch that should be left behind is difficult. Determining where to prune to direct growth on trees and shrubs is based on the bud you prune to. Branching will be stimulated in the four inches behind the cut you make. Should you use a wound dressing to help the plant heal? No. Research has shown the paints hold in moisture and increase the chances of rot.

Palm pruning is another creature altogether. Most palms are badly over-pruned in Central Florida out of ignorance. You should never remove a green palm leaf. Only remove brown, dead ones. The cut into the base of the leaf can be done in various ways to create different looks. Fruit can be removed at any time for safety reasons. Many of the hard, round fruit create slip hazards on sidewalks, but leave those leaves on for a healthy palm.

For information and hands-on training on how to prune, attend our class called Pruning and Planting Landscape Trees and Shrubs on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 10 a.m. Set your landscape up for success by learning University of Florida recommended pruning and planting practices. Participants will receive the UF/IFAS Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs publication. Registration is required, and the cost is $5.

Another gardening class is Building Backyard Habitats from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec.6 at the Clermont Garden Club, 849 West Ave. in Clermont. The Lake County Master Gardeners, in partnership with the Clermont Garden Club, will present the principles that can be used to attract butterflies, birds, bats and bees. Registration is required, and the cost is $5.

If your December is more about food than gardening, the Happy Holiday Meals class will be at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Leesburg Public Library, 100 E. Main St. in Leesburg. This free program will help participants prepare healthy holiday recipes without sacrificing flavor. Learn to make the right choices in order to indulge and enjoy the holiday season. Registration is required.

To register for classes, go to lake.ifas.ufl.edu.

Visit the Discovery Gardens and our plant clinic with your plant problems and questions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Lake County Extension Center, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares.

Juanita Popenoe is the director of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension Office and environmental horticulture production agent III. Email jpopenoe@ufl.edu.