It’s Spring; What Can I Prune? Confused about when and what to prune in the Spring? Spring has its own set of rules and reasons for pruning.
Spring is an awesome time for gardeners. You can focus your attention on lots of different tasks, each day bringing a completely different set of challenges and each task completed a new sense of accomplishment. Pruning is one of those tasks that can be a bit confusing, though. Pruning a plant in the wrong season can cause undue setbacks, but when done in the proper season pruning is extremely helpful. For healthy, tidy plants with great-looking blooms it’s important to prune the right thing at the right time.
Spring bloomers, like forsythia, quince, lilac and azalea, should be pruned
soon after they finish blooming. These shrubs bloom on “old” wood. Pruning early in the season allows the longest amount of time for them to grow next year’s buds. Use prudent judgement, however; these plants may not need pruning at all if they are in a good spot and healthy. They often look their best when they grow as naturally as possible. There is no need to prune just because you have time on your hands.
Repeat Bloomers is a category of flowering shrubs that produce multiple bloom cycles per year. Each year, new brands of roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and more appear in garden centers presenting the question: When should they be pruned? Many of these bloom on both old and new wood, with the first round of flowers appearing mid-spring. In spring, treat these shrubs as you would the spring bloomers by pruning as soon as the first bloom cycle is complete. If the plants are still well shaped and suitably sized, limit pruning to the
removal of spent blooms.
When hedges such as boxwood, holly, ligustrum, yews and others which are grown for foliage rather than flowers, put on their first flush of new growth they may look a bit shaggy. For a tightly groomed appearance, shear them. Cut the young foliage only, about half the distance back toward the old growth (for instance, a flush of four inches should be cut to two inches). Pruning in this manner allows the plant to grow slightly larger, which helps the canopy stay deep and full. It will also help to minimize production of long shoots.
Old shrubs that have grown too large for their space, or have seen extensive damage from cold, disease or insects, may require renewal pruning. Simply put, they are cut to the ground and allowed to regrow from root suckers. This drastic measure is often used to get a f
ew more years out of shrubs that will in the future have to be replaced. Spring is the time to do this, at the time when the first buds begin to swell at the branch tips but before the new growth starts to emerge.
As the suckers grow back, pinch the tips to force these aggressive shoots to produce lateral branches for a bushier plant.
Basic tools for pruning these categories of plants include hand-held pruners, loppers, shears and pruning saw. Hand pruners work well for fine stems and branches up to æ inch in diameter. Bi-cut “loppers” are used for branches between 1/2 inch and 2 inches. A saw is necessary for larger branches. Shears are used to keep hedges and topiaries groomed by cutting through soft green growing tips. Keep tools sharp and clean. Sharp tools make clean cuts which heal far more quickly than those that are full and leave ragged cuts. A spring “haircut” or proper pruning will reward you for your diligent work with beautiful foliage and bloom all summer long!