By Ken Muellers, Pruning Expert, Senior landscape Designer, CNLP
April and May showers are bringing many flowers, along with a lot of new growth on the plants in the garden. In some cases, maybe a little more growth than wanted. That is where summer pruning comes in. But there are some rules of thumb to follow before you get out the pruners.
As a general rule don’t prune shrubs that haven’t bloomed yet. Most plants develop their flower buds well in advance of blooming. So, pruning before flowering means removing flowers, which in most cases, isn’t the goal. Ideally shrubs should be pruned right AFTER flowering, giving them maximum time to produce new buds for next seasons flowers. Early bloomers such as forsythia, lilacs, and azaleas all can be pruned after the flowers have faded. At this point in the season, late bloomers such as hydrangea and crape myrtles should be left alone. Knowing your plants, and what blooms when is essential to proper pruning.
Removing spent flowers not only makes the plant look better, but in many cases, it also promotes more flowers! After rhododendrons bloom you can break off the spent flowers. This process called ‘deadheading’ prevents the plant from expending energy on seed development and encourages more flowering next season. Roses and many other plants also benefit from the removal of spent blooms. Some perennial flowers such as nepeta and echinacea will produce a second flush of blooms if cut back after flowering. ‘Pinching back’ is another technique like pruning to manage flowering. By snipping or pinching the fresh growth early in the season on late blooming plants such as Montauk daises, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, chrysanthemums, and asters, you cause the plant to produce more flowers on a denser plant. Just make sure you stop ‘pinching’ before July, otherwise you may not get any flowers.
For trees and shrubs where flowers are not the prime interest, like hedges and screen plants, now is a good time to give them a fresh pruning to keep them looking neat and prevent them from outgrowing their bounds. For a tight formal hedge, you may need to prune two or three times a year to keep a neat appearance. When summer pruning, it is important to train the plant to the proper shape that allows sunlight to hit the foliage all the way down to the bottom leaves by tapering the plant from top to bottom. A common mistake is allowing the plant to get wider at the top, shading out the foliage below and making for a sparse plant.
We can help
If breaking out the pruners, hedge trimmers, ladder, and work gloves is not your idea of the best way to spend your summer days you may want to talk to Hicks Landscapes about our Premier Extended Care Services. Having our knowledgeable team do the work while you hit the beach might be the best choice for you and your garden!