Pruning of Ornamental Shrubs
This is my site Written by Geoff on April 1, 1999 – 5:33 pm

Most homeowners have a sizable investment in the shrubs around their yard and gardens. While we my spend untold hours taking care of our home and gardens, shrubs often get lost in the shuffle. Just like our homes, shrubs take a certain amount of maintenance to keep them attractive and healthy. One of the most important ways we can protect our investment is through regular pruning. The reason for pruning may be broken down into the following groups, training the plant, maintaining the shrub’s health, improving the quality of flowers, fruit, and foliage, and restricting it’s growth. 

We begin training the shrub when we first plant it with the removal of any diseased, damaged, or crossing branches. As the shrub grows, we will continue to remove such growth while trying to maintain the plant’s natural shape. You always want to maintain this natural shape unless you are trying to achieve a special effect such as with hedges, topiaries, cordons, or an espaliers. 

To maintain a plant’s health and vigor, you must regularly remove any diseased, dying, or dead wood. Unsound wood is a sure entry point for insects and diseases. Therefore, you want to make sure you cut back to sound heathy growth, preferably with a sterile blade, when pruning. Thinning out the shrub will also improve the penetration of light and air resulting in a more uniform, vigorous foliage growth. Many shrubs, such as lilacs, benefit from the regular removal of old limbs. 

Pruning will also improve the quality of flowering. When we remove some of the plants woody growth it, then can divert more energy into the production of larger, though possibly less, flowers. Since most shrubs bloom off new or one year old growth, timely pruning will increase the production of flower bearing limbs. 

Sometimes we need just to prune shrubs to keep them under control. While we should always select shrubs suitable for the space limitations sometimes, situations change. We must also keep shrubs off walks, doorways, and drives for safety considerations. Damage to the home can quickly happen if shrubs are allowed to contact siding, electrical wires, or roofing. Security is another factor we must consider when pruning. 

January through early April is the best time to prune shrubs in our location, zone 5, in Southwestern Lower Michigan. With the leaves off the deciduous shrubs, you can better see into the plant’s structure. Pruning at this time also allows you to remove any winter damage. Healing occurs more quickly in the Spring, with less chance for disease. One time you want to avoid pruning is in late summer or early fall as this does not give any new growth time to harden off before winter. 

We generally prune our shrubs two or three times a year depending on the location and growing conditions. You do not want to put off pruning as it is much easier and better for the plant when done regularly. Anyone can do a good job pruning with some common sense and a little practice. If necessary, you can always hire an arborist, these usually can be found in the telephone book under Tree Services. The National Arborist Association at also maintains a current member listing of trained professionals. To find one in your area, simply go to their site and enter your zip code. The important point to remember in pruning is to do it regularly.

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Modified: March 8, 2009 at 9:01 am UTC

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