We love our early spring blooming flowering shrubs for their fragrance and color. In June, once flowers have faded, it’s the time to prune these beauties. This includes forsythia, azaleas, spirea, flowering crab apple, fragrant viburnum, fothergilla, lilac, redbud, and cornelian dogwood–shrubs that flower before June 15.
Timing is everything. Spring flowering shrubs usually set their buds in the summer for flowers next year. Make sure to prune within about two weeks after the conclusion of flowering for best results. You can also prune evergreens now if you need to control their size, or wish to shape them.
Before you get out the pruners, take a moment to think about why you are pruning. If a shrub is the size and shape you want, feel free to leave it alone. And keep in mind, not all shrubs need to be pruned each year.
If you’ve decided to prune, first look for dead, diseased or crossing branches. These should be removed to prevent future problems. Using clean, sharp hand pruning shears, trim at a branching point or just above an active bud at a 45° angle. Locate and prune favoring outward facing buds, so that future growth does not head back into the center of the plant.
Next, step back and determine if you just want to thin out the plant or head it back. We thin out a shrub to encourage air circulation or to shape it. Trimming shrubs also helps to invigorate them. Remove one third of the oldest, thickest stems, cutting them as close to the soil line as possible. Sometimes, as in red twig dogwood, older stems can be identified by a darker or duller color.
To head back a plant, carefully choose which branches to remove. It might be helpful to have a friend hold branches away so you can see how it looks. If in doubt, leave the branch. In some cases you may also choose to prune back a shrub more severely. In any case don’t shear it or prune by more than one third. And don’t panic if, during the summer, you need to trim a few stray branches.
You know you’ve done a good job if the plants don’t look pruned when you’re done with them. When you’re finished trimming your early spring flowering shrubs, you can enjoy the rest of your summer knowing that you’re going to be treated to beautiful, healthy and prolifically blooming shrubs next spring.
Posted on 6/4/2014 at 7:15:00 PM