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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
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Pruning Series Part 3: Flowering and Formal Shrubs


Proper pruning of flowering shrubs and formal shrubs can not only increase the number of flowers but create a tidier. It is important to identify the shrub and know the timing of flowering before any pruning or shearing takes place. Early flowering shrubs (flower before June 15) should be pruned after flowers fade and late flowering shrubs can be pruned in early spring when green growth starts to occur. A note for gardeners with hydrangea in their landscape mophead (macrophylla) and oakleaf hydrangea should be pruned after flowering and panicled (paniculata) and smooth (arborescence) hydrangea should be pruned in late winter. A list of flowering timing can be found at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/ho-4.pdf.

There are four methods of pruning shrub: renewal, heading back, rejuvenation and shearing.

Renewal pruning is a method used on roses and multi-stemmed shrubs. It is the removal of the majority of the oldest branches all the way to the base of the plant thinning the canopy and stimulating new growth. Renewal pruning opens up the center allowing additional sunlight and air. Spring flowering shrubs like lilac are generally pruned by the renewal process. Other shrubs that are pruned by a renewal process are beauty bush, dogwood, hydrangea, viburnum and hypericum.

Heading back is a second process for pruning shrubs where the branches are clipped back to a lateral buds making a fuller plant. Heading back provides reduction of height while maintaining the shrubs natural. The overall goal is to prune the limb back to ΒΌ" above the bud.

Rejuvenation cutting is the process of where the shrubs have become too large or have too many stems to do the renewal or heading back method. Rejuvenation cutting should occur in early spring removing all growth a back to the ground leaving only 4-6" of growth behind. Example of shrubs that would respond well to this method is smoke bush, forsythia, cinquefoil, flowering quince and weigelia. This process can be employed for overgrown shrubs or shrubs that exhibit winter die back.

Shearing is generally not recommended for most flowering shrubs because it tears up stems and leaves stumps. However, shearing is very common for formal shrubs like boxwood, yew and privet. The largest mistake made with shearing is the shape left behind. Most shear perpendicular to the ground. However this process is not recommended because sunlight is unable to reach the bottom branches causing them to lose their lower leaves. The shape left behind should be wider on the bottom in order to capture the most light. If this shearing process is corrected most shrubs will likely grow back the bottom portion of the plant.
Photos are Courtesy of University of Kentucky Extension



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