Pruning deciduous shrubs in late winter encourages fast growth in the spring. It is also easier to see the branch structure making cuts more efficient and beneficial for the plant.
Basic Rules for Pruning Shrubs:
1. Maintain its natural shape. Pruning should be done primarily to remove dead and diseased branches. It is also done to maintain overall size. However, preserving its natural form also known as its ‘habit’ is ideal for most shrubs.
2. Let there be light! When branches grow close together and become too dense, light and air have a hard time penetrating the shrub. It is good to thin out shrubs where more light and air circulation would be beneficial. Generally, ‘thinning cuts’ require the removal of entire canes or branches near the base of the shrub to maintain the health of the plant.
3. Pruning shrubs is similar to pruning trees. Make the cuts just above the buds or where two branches intersect. ‘Heading cuts’ are used to control the growth and habit of the shrub. To do this, prune just above the buds that are pointing in the preferred direction for growth.
4. Shearing should only be applied when a formal hedge is desired on select plants that can handle the stress of this kind of aggressive pruning. Normally, shearing is done on small leaved evergreens and is best performed in summer. Make sure to leave the bottom of your hedges slightly wider than the top to facilitate the reach of sunlight.
5. Spring blooming shrubs that flower on last year’s growth should not be pruned in winter. It is best to wait until just after the shrub has flowered!
Finally, remember not to overdo it. If you have put off pruning that overgrown shrub for years, don’t go and hack away at abandon when you suddenly get motivated! Pruning only about 1/3 of the shrub per year is best for the overall health of your shrubs.
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