Like many situations in horticulture or gardening there are some things we need to keep in mind when we try to keep our flowering shrubs like Forsythia, Weigelia, Spirea, Lilac, Hydrangea and others looking healthy, vigorous and blooming profusely. Many varieties of flowering shrubs bloom on the growth from last summer.  If you happened to prune these varieties, and others like them, after mid-July or you prune them now you will be removing the flower buds for this spring’s show. If your flowering shrubs do not flower this spring stop and think if you did any pruning late in the summer or the fall. Another thing that may keep these varieties from flowering can be weather related things like long periods of subzero temperatures that can kill flower buds on some plants.

The proper time to prune flowering shrubs like those mentioned above is right after they flower. One of the best ways to do this pruning, especially on older plants, is to prune so that the entire plant is “rejuvenated”. We can do this by removing 1/3 of the oldest canes or stems all the way back to the ground. When this is done the plant responds by sending up new canes so in effect we have a “new” shrub every three years. This takes care of the major portion of pruning but it does not address keeping the over-all size of the shrub from getting too big for the space we have for this shrub. After we remove these older canes then we need to take a look at the overall size of the shrub to see if it is necessary to reduce the size of the plant. Most of the time it is better to keep the natural shape of the plant but there are situations in some gardens where a more formal shape is desirable. Random removal of a portion of the longer canes will keep the “natural” look of the plant while reducing the height and width. More symmetrical shapes, like ovals or straight lines for an appearance of a manicured hedge can be achieved by trimming with hedge shears. How ever the pruning is accomplished, be sure to use shears that are sharp so the branches are cut clean and there are no ragged ends of the pruned stems left on the plant. Prune close to the remaining stem on the plant so there are no stubs where decay can begin.

Flowering shrubs that bloom on current seasons growth like Butterfly Bush can be pruned from now until late March. Shrubs that do not flower can be pruned in the winter but March seems to be one of the better times, after the ravages of winter weather are over.

For more information go to http://pubs.ex.vt.edu/430/430-462/430-462_pdf.and look at Virginia Techs publication 430-462, Shrub Pruning Calendar. This is an easy to use chart once you have identified your shrubs.  

Go to meadowview.com or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your question or comments. Bring in a sample of your shrub if you need help in identifying what you have planted in your landscape.

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Meadow View Growers

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