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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Pruning Flowering Trees and Shrubs - from Dave Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

Now that most of our spring flowering shrubs and trees are finished blooming, it is time to prune them so they will flower on schedule next spring. These plants bloom best and can be kept in bounds with annual pruning.

Since early flowering plants bloom from buds set the previous summer, prune now so plants have plenty of time to set buds for next spring. Begin by removing all dead or broken branches.

Multi-stem flowering shrubs can become too tall and bare at the bottom. They can be renewed by cutting out a number of the oldest stems to the ground each year. This stimulates new growth from the roots. Cut out 1/4 of the oldest stems all the way to the ground. Renewal in this manner keeps the plant quite free of borers and scale insects and the oldest stems will be only four years old.

Old plants may have only a few main stems. The immediate result of renewal on these plants may be somewhat unattractive. But new shoots from the bottoms of the plant will provide a better shape and foliage to the ground. Then future renewal pruning will result in no loss of beauty.

Stems remaining from renewal pruning are often too long and ungainly. Therefore, single stem plants and small flowering trees may be headed back. Head back overly long branches by removing them to a shorter side branch that grows in the same direction or away from the center of the plant. The result will be a smaller plant, but it won't change the character or shape of the plant.

Flowering trees and single stem shrubs are often grafted on different rootstocks. Remove any suckers that are growing from the ground. Also flowering trees bloom best on horizontal branches. Remove any strongly vertical water sprouts that shoot up through the center of the tree before they take over.

Most people are afraid to do any pruning on their plants because they think it will harm them or because they are afraid to make a mistake. Pruning actually stimulates plants to grow, making them more vigorous and healthy; they flower better. Plus, plants continue to grow; so if you make a mistake, in a season or so when the plant has recovered, you can do the pruning again the right way.

Do not be afraid to experiment. Plants are very forgiving. They can take quite a bit of abuse and come back faithfully to provide enjoyment and beauty in our garden.

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