Fall Shrub Pruning

August 23, 2010

Fall is a good time to give some of your shrubs a haircut. Pick the shrubs that produce their flowers on the new wood the following season to prune in the fall or early spring. You may remove as much or as little of the growth made this year as is necessary to shape the shrub. Some gardeners prefer to prune only moderately in the fall, going over the shrubs again in early spring to remove any branches that may have been injured in the winter.

Remember that the spring-flowering shrubs receive their main pruning immediately after the flowering season. They should not be pruned in the fall unless they have been greatly neglected, in which case cutting out the oldest wood at the base is recommended at that time.  The spring-flowering shrubs which bloom on one year old wood may be free of branches made two seasons ago.

Butterfly bush benefits from trimming, to keep it more compact and encourage new blooms. If damaged by the frost, hard pruning can be done in early spring. Spiraea Anthony Waterer may be cut back from one-third to half to give it a compact, bushy shape. Some of the old wood of Althea (Rose of Sharon) may need removing now and this season’s growth cut back somewhat. Sumac (Rhus) may be cut back to three or four eyes on each shoot. If the privet hedge has not been trimmed into a formal shape, this is a good time to do it and a way to add to the thickness of the growth early next year. Other shrubs that will be benefit from fall pruning are Abelia grandiflora, American Beautyberry and St. John’s Wort.  Trumpet vine may be cut to eliminate the long, thin, straggling canes.

The object of pruning is twofold. First it encourages a well-developed shrub, and second it insures a maximum of flowers. Use good judgement in every individual case. Step back and look at the shrub before pruning drastically. Instead, take one cut at a time, step back, take a good look, pick another cane to trim and make your cut. The pruning should be done just above the bud. Use sharp tools that will make a clean-cut, and not cause bruises and tears.

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