Tips when pruning shrubs
Shrubs are some of the most invaluable plants in the garden, providing shape and structure to borders. As well as many bringing their own sensational colour, scent and texture, they are also often the perfect backdrop and foil to other flowering plants.
How often should you prune shrubs?
All plants benefit from a regular prune and garden shrubs are no exception. Pruning shrubs every year will help to encourage strong, healthy growth, keep your plants in good shape and under control, and most importantly improve their flowering.
When should you prune shrubs?
Getting the timing right is crucial, however, prune shrubs at the wrong time and you could end up with no flowers at all for a year. Fortunately, there is a very simple rule to follow to ensure you prune shrubs at the right time.
The key to successful shrub pruning is knowing when and how your shrubs flower, and most deciduous shrubs will fit into one of just two groups:
Shrubs that flower before mid summer
Generally, if a shrub flowers before mid summer, such as late winter flowering shrubs like forsythia and kerria, or later flowering ones such as philadelphus, weigelia and spiraeae, it flowers on growth made the previous year. All these shrubs should therefore be pruned immediately after flowering. This will then give them the whole of the rest of the year to put on new growth ready for flowers next year.
Shrubs that flower after mid summer
The other main shrub pruning group flowers after mid summer. Shrubs in this group include popular plants like fuchsia and buddleja as well as bee friendly perovskia and caryopteris - all these plants flower on growth made that same year. Shrub pruning of these plants therefore, should be done in the early spring to give the plant time to produce the new growth and for it to mature and flower that same year. Shrub pruning as early as possible in spring will help give these plants the maximum amount of time in which to produce new flowering growth.
How to prune shrubs
When pruning shrubs always take out any weak, damaged, diseased or dead growth first, clearing out any wood that crosses or rubs against other branches too, as this will later become damaged. Take all this growth right back to ground level. If a shrub is heavily congested, also prune some of the older stems taking them down to ground level to create an open plant with good circulation to help prevent disease.
To successfully prune shrubs that flower before mid summer, prune them after flowering by cutting all their flowered growth back to strong, young shoots lower down. Every year also cut back hard about a third of their old wood, down to ground level to keep the plant producing plenty of fresh young growth.
To prune shrubs that flower after mid summer, cut back all the last years flowering wood in early spring to just two or three buds above the old framework. After such hard shrub pruning as this, it is also wise to feed and mulch plants to help give them a boost. Sprinkle some blood, fish and bone around the base of your shrub and fork it in and then mulch with some of your own garden compost or well rotted animal manure.
Pruning evergreen shrubs
Most evergreen shrubs need very little pruning, but generally this type of shrub pruning should be carried out in spring - after frosts have passed, which could damage young growth, and before active growth begins. Take out any damaged, diseased or dead wood as well as roughly a third of the old wood to open up the plant and promote new growth.
Pruning shrubs really is very simple, once you know the rules, just remember to do it regularly and you'll have strong healthy plants, covered in flowers each year.