Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Type of Shrub Determines When to Prune

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Type of Shrub Determines When to Prune

Article excerpt

Although it can seem tempting to prune in late fall and early spring, the type of shrub you have determines when you should prune. For non-flowering shrubs, early spring may be just the time to break out the clippers, but for spring flowering bushes, patience will pay off in blooms.

Shrubs that flower in the spring are normally pruned immediately after flowering. Some examples of these types of shrubs are forsythia, Vanhoutte spirea, quince, lilac and mockorange.

Pruning these shrubs during the dormant season, before blooming, doesn't harm the health of the plant, but it does remove the developing flower buds. For maximum floriferousness, prune after flowering has concluded.

Shrubs that bloom on the current season’s growth, or that don't produce ornamental flowers, are best pruned from late winter to early spring. Examples of these are Rose of Sharon, Japanese spirea, butterfly bush, blue mist spirea and burning bush euonymus.

It is important to note whether the plant is coniferous (such as juniper, pine and spruce). If you cut a conifer, it may not grow back. Conifers don't have dormant buds on older wood, so they don't re-sprout behind pruning cuts.

Once you have determined when to prune, you must determine how to prune. There are three basic methods.

• Thinning is used to thin out branches from a shrub that is too dense. It is accomplished by removing most of the inward-growing twigs by either cutting them back to a larger branch or cutting them back to just above an outward facing bud. On a multi-stemmed shrub, the oldest branches may be completely removed. Shrubs that respond well to thinning include forsythia, lilac, crapemyrtle and bayberry. Many shrubs benefit from a combination of heading back and thinning cuts.

• Heading back is removing the end of a branch by cutting it back to a bud. It is used to reduce the height of the shrub or to keep it compact. Branches aren't cut back to a uniform height, as this will result in a “witches’ broom” effect. …

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