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A Guide to Pruning Shrubs

When homeowners say they’re planning to prune their shrubs, they frequently mean they’re going to ‘shear’ their shrubs. Although shearing has its uses in landscaping, it’s typically done for aesthetic motives and rarely leads to a healthier plant. Pruning on the flip side, if done right, makes the plant more healthy and formed true to its natural shape.

Good pruning consistently results in the more vigorous plant that is healthier. Good pruning also leaves the shrub in its true form, not shaped into something else.

Any pruning should start with the removal of any crossing or dead branches. Crossing branches are those that grow inward toward or crossing the inside of the shrub. These are of no use and may inhibit the desirable branches growth by shading the interior of the plant. Once the dead and crossing branches are removed, you’ll need to determine which type of pruning the shrub needs: rejuvenation or maintenance pruning.
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Maintenance pruning is needed several times annually and calls for only removing unwanted branches to keep a natural shape. Look for long branches that seem misplaced. Reach to the middle of the plant when removing in order to find the natural branching point. That is the area you need to make the cut.
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The cut should be at such an angle that it permits water to run off. Make the cut at 1/4-inch above the bud node. The bud node is where new development will start, so select a node pointing in the direction of the desired development. Settling upon a node pointed towards the center of the plant will result in a crossing branch.

Rejuvenation pruning, on the other hand, should be carried out on older plants. As plants age, branches or leading stems lose their vigor and be unproductive. Rejuvenation pruning means exactly what it says, it rejuvenates old plants by returning them to their previous energy and shape. There are two approaches to get this done, one is extreme and the other is less intense.

Sometimes called renewal pruning, this drastic pruning involves cutting the plant completely back to a height between 6 to 12 inches. It is unsuitable for some shrubs, so check with your local greenhouse, extension agent or do your individual research before cutting since this could be very difficult on a plant. As the plant will be needing time to recover, timing can be crucial with this type of pruning.

If the plant continues to be pretty vigorous, in the event the shrub cannot handle a radical cutback or in the event you intend to rejuvenate the shrub but nevertheless maintain its form, you’re able to do a long-term drastic rejuvenation.

Adhering to these simple techniques will keep your shrubs healthy, vigorous and, if flowering shrubs, covered in flowers at all times.