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Posted on 14th Mar 2013 @ 2:02 PM
In many parts of the country, there is still plenty of snow cover. But that shouldn’t stop you from sharpening your sheers and heading out to the yard. Pruning is a gardening practice that is often misunderstood, forgotten, or misused. But rather than wait until your hydrangea is leggy or your spiraea won’t let you up the front walk, get your flowering shrubs in shape before they get ready to emerge in Spring.
Pruning is actually good for plant health. Think of it as you would your own regular visit to the barber or beauty parlor. Sometimes it is just for a trim and other times a whole new style. Late winter or early spring pruning will result in vigorous growth to replace the removed wood. Pruning promotes additional branching which results in a bushier shrub and more structure.
Some good reasons to prune
The big question is what needs pruning now and what does not. This is of particular importance with the flowering shrubs in your yard. Think of when your shrub flowers and work backwards from there. It’s the old question of old wood versus new. Early spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia, viburnum, lilac, deutzia, philadelphus and flowering quince set their buds the previous summer. This is also true of big leaf hydrangeas (macrophyla). If you prune in the late winter or early spring, you will be trimming off your flower buds! They bloom on Old Wood.
Most shrubs that bloom later in the summer flower on the new growth put forth in spring. That’s New Wood. These include abelia, buddleia, itea, and hardy hibiscus. Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens also fall into this category.
If you’re still unsure, don’t worry! A great rule of thumb is to prune right after your shrubs are finished flowering and then leave them alone.
Source: NC State University http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/shrubs/text/pruning.html