How to Prune, Trim and Shape Your Shrubs, Trees, Perennials
Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Cut.
A few minutes spent pruning is one of the best things you can do for the plants in your yard, but it’s one of the most neglected tasks of homeowning. Why? Because for most of us, it’s a black art. The risks of butchery seem high, and the rewards low. But pruning isn’t difficult, And what you get in return is thicker foliage, more flowers, and healthier plants. On the following pages, we’ll show you a few simple pruning techniques and how to apply them to the shrubs and small trees on your property. Once you’ve mastered them, it’s just a matter of timing. Most homeowners prune when it’s convenient for them, but that might not be the best time for the plant. Consulting the plant lists will take the mystery out of this part of pruning as well. Keep reading to learn how you can get the job done with confidence.
Pruning Flowering Shrubs.
Young shrubs should be pruned lightly to make them grow fuller and bushier. With hand pruners, trim long, unbranched stems by cutting just above a healthy bud. This type of pruning, called heading, encourages lower side branches to develop and enhances the shrub’s natural form. When selecting a bud tip to trim to, keep in mind that the new branch will grow out in the direction of the bud. Like most pruning, heading cuts should be timed to avoid disrupting the plant’s flowering.
As a shrub develops, thin out old, weak, rubbing, or wayward branches where they merge with another branch. This opens up the middle of the plant to more sunlight, which keeps interior branches healthy, stimulates growth, and increases flowering.
Older and Neglected Shrubs
Older shrubs that have become a tangle of unproductive stems may require a more extensive program of thinning cuts, called renewal or renovation pruning, that takes at least three years. On shrubs with multiple stems that grow up from the base, like lilac, viburnum, forsythia, and dogwood, gradually remove all of the old stems while leaving the new, flower-producing growth untouched. Eventually, the new flower-producing stems will completely replace the lackluster old growth.
Neglected shrubs may call for a more drastic approach: hard pruning. Most deciduous shrubs that respond well to renewal pruning can also take hard pruning, as will a handful of broadleaf evergreens, such as privet. Using loppers and a pruning saw, cut back all stems to within an inch of the ground during the plant’s winter dormancy. Come spring, the plants will quickly produce new shoots from the base. Of course, this technique will leave you with little to look at while waiting for the new growth.