Pruning Made Easy for Shrubs

Timing is critical when it comes to pruning.  With a shrub that has flower buds, if it is pruned at the wrong time, you’ll be cutting off the buds, resulting in no flowers for the next season. This is a common answer to “Why didn’t I get more blooms?”Recently we shared with you some tips for pruning clematis.  As do the various clematis varieties, each plant or shrub has its own unique pruning needs.  However, there are some basics that are common to all.  For instance, start pruning a shrub by cutting off anything that is dead or appears to be diseased. You can tell where the healthy wood starts because it will have apparent disease conditions like dark and pitted areas. After you have removed all the diseased and dead wood, remove any stems or branches that seem to be broken. If it is a flowering shrub, cut off any branches that seem to be growing awkwardly, in the wrong places, or are shooting off in different directions than the rest of the shrub.

Popular spring-flowering shrubs including lilacs and forsythia should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming in the spring. Forsythia does best when it is pruned close to the ground. Lilacs will bloom the best on one-year-old branches. Make sure you manage suckers and delete old branches on lilacs.  Hydrangeas and roses are summer and fall blooming; they need to be pruned when they are dormant in the winter because they flower on this season’s stems.

“Renewal pruning” is the best way to take care of shrubs. When you do renewal pruning you remove any old or low-hanging shoots, and you also prune some of the newest stems that are called “suckers.” Since shrubs have a lot of shoots that come up, pruning these suckers away gives the shrub room for other shoots to grow.

Considering how you are pruning things is important when using your shears to create good growth habits. Pruned shrubs should still look graceful, not like they were given too severe of a cutting. The recommended tool is a lopper. If you have an old plant that you would like to recover, you can try pruning back some branches every few years. This practice revitalizes some plants.

Proper pruning of your shrubs is important to maintaining their health and appearance as well as encouraging blooms.  If you have any questions about caring for your shrubs or any other aspect of your landscape, please give us a call.