How to Prune Shrubs
Late winter or early spring is the best time to prune most shrubs. For flowering shrubs that bloom on old wood like some hydrangeas, prune after flowering to avoid removing flower buds. If you aren’t sure just prune after your plant’s bloom time to be safe. Be cautious when pruning in mid to late fall. Pruning can stimulate new growth which can be damaged by freezing temperatures. This does not tend to affect the overall health of your bush, but it can kill the new growth. Minor pruning can be done at any time. Broken, dead, or diseased branched and suckers that come from the roots should be removed when you notice them.
Using The Right Equipment To Prune Shrubs
Pruning shears or pruners are great to have on hand to trim shrubs. This tool is mainly used to prune small branches, but can cut most branches of small and medium shrubs. Loppers are great for pruning large branches and reaching more difficult areas within a bush. Electric hedge trimmers are used for shearing. They are most useful in the case of hedges. This tool makes trimming and shaping hedges a breeze, but isn’t the best choice for every shrub (See below). Keep alcohol (at least 70%) on hand to disinfect equipment between plants. Gardening gloves can reduce the strain on hands when pruning and protect them from blisters, scrapes, and scratches.
The Proper Cuts When Pruning Shrubs
When you trim a portion of a branch back to a bud this is a heading cut. Choose the direction of the new growth by carefully selecting the bud you cut back to. The new growth will grow in the direction where this bud is pointing. Heading cuts control height and keep a shrub tidy in appearance.
Thinning cuts remove an entire limb back to the trunk, the intersecting branch, or the ground. Thinning cuts create a healthier plant by ncreasing air circulation and light penetration.
Types Of Shrub Pruning
Shearing is an easy and quick method of pruning, but it can cause a shrub to look ugly and woody with bare branches in the center. An easy solution is to add in some thinning cuts to open up the bush to light and circulation. Shearing should be avoided in the case of flowering shrubs.
Renovation pruning can bring an old, overgrown shrub back to life. With this type of pruning, follow the rule of 1/3. In renovation pruning you can prune back ⅓ of the height with heading cuts and ⅓ of the oldest, thickest branches as far back to the ground as possible with thinning cuts. Repeat this 3 years in a row until the thick, old limbs are eliminated. This method can be performed on just about any bush. Spring flowering bushes can be pruned once the bloom period has ended. All other shrubs should be renewal pruned in late winter or early spring.
Severe renovation pruning is a simple, but harsh pruning method. Many plants, like Knock Out Roses, Ligustrum, and Smooth Hydrangea respond well to this type of pruning. Most fast growing plants tolerate this pruning well. Rejuvenation pruning can invigorate an aging, overgrown shrub that is struggling. There is no thinking or planning with this severe type of pruning. Just cut your plant back to 12 inches or less from the ground. Rejuvenation pruning should only be done in late winter or early spring.