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Shrub Pruning Basics


Not all shrubs are created equal when it comes to taming them by pruning

Pruning accomplishes some very healthful and aesthetic purposes for some plants. We prune to remove dead and diseased sections, some trimming will keep them healthy or make them stronger, and sometimes we need to control the shape and size.

However, it is important to have some familiarity with the species before you take the shears in hand. There are two easy rules to remember, even if you're somewhat clueless about the shrub. First, if it is a spring bloomer, then it can be cut back at the end of the blooming season. These shrubs, including azaleas, bloom off of growth from the previous year. Summer blooming plants, however, (crape myrtle, for instance), should not be trimmed in late winter as their blooms are dependent on current growth.

In addition, any plant that shows signs of disease should be pruned regardless of the season. Be sure to cut back into healthy stems, even if you have to remove the entire branch. If you do not cut enough off and end up cutting into diseased material, be sure to disinfect your shears with alcohol. Otherwise, you risk spreading the disease.

How you prune will be dependent on whether the plant is a cane grower or a tree grower. Cane plants exhibit new shoots and branches at the base while tree growers will have offshoots across the entire plant.

For size control of cane plants, prune the tallest and oldest shoots. If the middle seems crowded, take out a few of the innermost canes as well. This will allow more sunlight to reach the interior and promote new growth.

For tree growers, or mounded shrubs, pruning is a bit trickier. Remove the thinnest branches along with those that are crossed or crowded. You can take out entire branches (back to the main stalk) if it is not too drastic for shaping. Choose a joint or bud that is facing in the direction you want the plant to grow and prune above that point. Trim around the base of the plant too, removing shoots and suckers.

Be sure to keep all cutting tool blades sharp. This will not only make a clean cut, but encourage faster healing in the process.

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Pittsburg, TX 75686
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