Pruning and Caring for Hedges & Shrubs
Pruning Hedges & Shrubs
Every shrub has its own pruning needs, but there are some rules that hold true for all shrubs. Removing damaged or dead branches, cutting out branches that have become too thick, and eliminating branches that detract from the overall look of the plant are all reasons to prune. You may also want to prune to keep flower production high or to create a specific look, such as an espalier or a rounded form.
When you prune is of equal importance. Deciduous non-flowering shrubs can be pruned in late winter and early spring, after the danger of frost has passed but before new growth has begun.
You can also prune these plants in mid-summer, to remove excess growth, suckers, and water sprouts. Broad-leafed, non-flowering evergreen shrubs can be pruned in late winter and early spring as well, but they also will do fine if pruned in summer.
Conifers seldom require pruning, but if they do, prune whorl-type conifers such as fir, spruce, and most pines in early spring, cutting new shoots back by about half to a point just above a growth bud. Prune random-branching conifers such as cedar and juniper in late winter or early spring right before growth begins, making sure that the cut branches have some foliage.
Flowering shrubs are fussier about when to prune. If plants bear flowers on wood that grew during the previous year, prune them just after they finish blooming. If plants produce flowers on the current season’s growth, though, prune them in late winter. To be sure, double-check with a reliable resource on a particular plant’s pruning requirements.
Caring for Shrubs
Because every shrub has different care needs, you’ll need to check with your local nursery for exact watering and feeding needs. For all plants, though, consider installing a drip irrigation system or watering basins to encourage direct watering to the roots. Adding mulches will help retain moisture and discourage weeds.
Flowering plants usually benefit from an annual application of fertilizer. However, if a plant looks weak and leaf color is pale, fertilizing is called for. Apply a complete fertilizer.
Pests and diseases may also be a concern, although most plants used for hedges are fairly resistant. If you notice the start of a problem, use non-toxic solutions, such as increasing watering and fertilizing, keeping the garden clean, and using insecticidal soaps and biological controls. If you take care of the problem when it first starts, it will usually not increase.