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Pruning Shrubs, How To

Prune Shrubs For Best Results

Pruning really is just a matter of encouraging the best from your shrubs. It can help them to grow more efficiently and bear as much fruit and as many flowers as they can -for as many years as possible. Pruning is easy to carry out at the right time once you have a grasp of the special needs of different groups of shrubs.

Prune to Keep Shrubs Blooming!

Many shrubs need pruning to increase their flowering capacity. One important use of pruning is to induce shrubs to make flowers rather than leaves. However, pruning serves two purposes at once; while encouraging flowering shoots, at the same time it allows light to reach the fruit or flowers. Deciduous spring and early summer flowering shrubs should be pruned immediately after flowering. Cut back old wood with faded flowers to encourage new growth. Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), forsythia (Forsythia spectabilis), mock orange (Philadelphus) and Rambler roses should have the older flowered shoots cut out to improve the chances of the new ones.

Pruning to thin out

As shrubs grow older, there is a tendency for the stems to become too congested, and one use of pruning is to keep an open shape for those shrubs which need light and air to reach their center. Roses and Gooseberries are both best kept with a simple framework and an open center

When and Where to Prune a Shrub

When pruning any shrub, a vital consideration is weather it flowers on the previous or the new season's growth. If you prune a shrub which flowers on last year's wood in spring, then you are effectively cutting off this year's flowers. Timing is important. You must understand the growing habits of a shrub before you begin to prune it. Many established shrubs are pruned according to flowering habits, while young shrubs are often pruned hard at the time of planting. If in doubt always check before you start to cut away!

Buddleia, the butterfly bush, can be cut hard down to a framework each spring. Its flowers are then produced at the end of the current season's growth, in late summer. Hydrangeas, on the other hand, flower on the wood they make in the previous year so prune after flowering. But this is not vital. If left until spring the old flower heads protect the new buds from harsh weather.

List of Some Shrubs to Prune in Spring Before Flowering;
  • Lad's love (Artemisia abrotanum)
  • Barberry, if necessary
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
  • Common heather (Calluna vulgaris)
  • Clematis (late-flowering species and hybrids: C. orientalis or "Etoile Rose")
  • Caryopteris
  • Red stemmed dogwood (Cornus alba)
  • Bell heather (Erica cinerea)
  • Cornish heath (Erica vagans)
  • FuchsiaHypericum
  •  'Hidcote'
  • Bay (Laurus nobilis)
  • Tree mallow (Lavatera olbia)
  • Flowering nutmeg (Leycesteria)
  • Honeysuckle varieties
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  • Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)
  • Cape figwort (Phygelius capensis)
  • Potentilla
  • Roses (hybrid tea and floribunda types)
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Elder (Sambucus)
  • Cotton lavender
List of Some Shrubs to Prune After Flowering;
  • Clematis montana
  • Broom (Cytisus species)
  • Deutzia
  • Escallonia
  • Forsythia
  • Spanish broom (Genista hispanica)
  • Rock rose
  • Winter-flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)
  • Jew's mallow (Kerria japonica)
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus species)
  • Cherries, plums
  • Roses (ramblers and old-fashioned shrubs)
  • Weigela
  • Hydrangea
  • Buddleia alternifolia
Pruning for Fancy Foliage

Sometimes shrubs are pruned to encourage leaf shoots to grow, rather than flower shoots. This is done where the bark or stems are more attractive than the flowers; they may have vibrant autumn foliage or winter color. The red stemmed dogwood, Cornus alba Sibirica, is pruned this way. The old stems can be cut off just above ground level every spring, and new shoots rise up 90-120cm/3-4ft. (In winter these scarlet wands are ideal for flower arranging.) The same method is also used for purple or white stemmed willows.

Shrubs which do not have a central trunk should have their stems shortened after planting, to encourage a generous bush with plenty of stems. For instance, newly planted roses are cut down hard to coax lots of low shoots and give the roots time to establish before the bush becomes top heavy .
Heathers are much better looking in later life if the leading shoots have had the tops nipped out from the first year.

A tidy trim, Shrubs can be clipped (trimmed) as topiary

The natural growth of many shrubs may not be as tidy and attractive as you would like. Pruning can correct this. Heathers, again, are a good example of shrubs which are 'prettier' when pruned. If the old flower shoots, which can be as long as 25cm/l0in, are cut in early spring, they need never become straggly. Any large-flowered, vigorous clematis such as "Clematis orientalis" is also pruned hard in early spring, to relieve it of a mass of old tangled growth. The flowers will appear in due course on the new shoots. If they are not pruned in spring they begin to grow from where they flowered the year before. Soon the shrub will become bare at the base with flowers at the top only. There are, of course, times when a mass of congested shoots looks right. This effect is achieved by clipping.

Pruning for all shapes and sizes of Shrubs

Naturally dense bushes, like Hebe, can have any long rogue shoots cut back to maintain the rounded form. It is worth- while noting that not all shrubs grow at a regular rate, one section may be more vigorous than another and the result is an asymmetrical shape. To rectify this the weak shoots require hard pruning and the stronger shoots a light touch; this is because hard pruning stimulates growth.
Often, pruning is simply used to limit the size of a shrub. For instance, many which have become just too large for their situation can, of course, be cut right down to start again. This is true of roses, mock orange, hydrangeas, holly, laurel, yew and many others.

Pruning Shrubs for a Healthy Landscape

Pruning helps to keep shrubs strong and healthy, preventing disease as well as curing many ailments. It is vitally important that all dead, damaged or diseased shoots are removed from the shrub as soon as they are spotted. They should be burned immediately and should never be added to the compost pile. The shoots should then be cut back into the healthy wood, to a bud if possible, as this will provide strong, healthy new growth.

After pruning, new growth will quickly appear and it is on this new wood that the buds for next year's flowers will be made. If the shrubs bear fruit later in the season prune lightly after flowering and enjoy the fruits. Prune most late summer flowering shrubs in spring. They produce their flowers on shoots grown immediately after pruning. Cut them back hard so that they make plenty of new wood in spring to carry their flowers. Included in this group are the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidil), pheasant berry (Leycesteria formosa) and the tamarisk tree (Tamarix pentandra). Winter-flowering shrubs simply need pruning to tidy up any dead or diseased branches after flowering in early spring.

Shrubs which need no Pruning

Some shrubs are better not pruned unless it is absolutely necessary. If they are planted with space to develop fully they may never need any pruning. This does not mean that they cannot be cut, say, for flower arrangements in your home. These shrubs, if left to themselves, provided they are planted in the correct position, will maintain a good shape. Some care is needed when cutting from conifers, however (firs, pines, cypresses and Leylandii). Cuts made into older wood will not sprout again, and caution is needed to avoid making a gap in the foliage.

List of Some shrubs that don't need pruning;
  • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
  • Camellia
  • Conifers (especially dwarf and low-growing kinds)
  • Daphne
  • Witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
  • Hebe
  • Calico bush (Kalmia la tifolia)
  • Magnolia
  • Osmanthus
  • Pieris
  • Rhododendron



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