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Good Growing

Have I Missed a Chance to Prune My Spring Shrubs?

Yesterday as I pulled into my driveway, I was looking at the shrubs in my front yard and that sudden realization of just how overgrown they had become. In the back of my mind I knew that they needed to be pruned, but I didn't really want to admit that I had let that happen, but sometimes things do get away from us. So, out I went with a good pair of pruners, loppers and a small handsaw and went to work. A number of my front shrubs were spring bloomers so I needed to wait until they were done blooming before I could prune them.

Spring blooming shrubs can benefit from a method of pruning known as renewal pruning. This method removes 1/3 of the oldest growth down to the ground and encourages new growth. This is also recommended for red twig and yellow twig dogwoods where the brightest stem colors are on the newest growth.

In some case, plants may be extremely over grown and near impossible to remove 1/3 of the oldest growth. In cases such as these, you may employ a different method of pruning known as rejuvenation pruning. This method is more drastic by removing all growth down to 4-6 inches above the ground. The plant will respond with a flush of new growth. Three to five years later, depending on the growth, use renewal pruning to maintain those shrubs.

If you notice damaged, dead, or crossing branches, make sure to remove these first and foremost to help keep your shrubs happy. Young shrubs may only need a light selective pruning to keep them in shape and sometimes older shrubs that are not as vigorous may only need a light pruning – removing damaged, dead, or crossing branches. Spring blooming viburnums should be pruned with care and selectively, and often need very little intensive pruning.

Whenever you remove any branches if not using either of the above mentioned pruning methods, make sure to prune back to a lateral branch so that you do not leave a stub. Make sure to use the proper equipment, you'll have a smoother cut with less chance of damage to the plant. Use the following as a guideline for which tools to use for what size branches:

For branches less than ¾ inches in diameter, use hand pruners.

For branches between ¾ inches and 1 ¾ inches diameter, use loppers

For branches larger than 1 ¾ inch diameter, use a handsaw

Before you prune make sure to have a plan and know what you want to accomplish with your pruning task. When it comes to pruning, never hesitate to contact your local Extension office for more information.