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BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Flowering Shrubs and Their Pruning Needs

By KERRY PEETZ
06/18/2021 | Comments

This is Part Two of a two-part series covering common flowering shrubs in our diocese and their pruning needs. The first installment, which appeared in the May 21 issue of the Herald, focused on spring flowering shrubs. This installment focuses on summer flowering shrubs, including flowers that grow on older wood.

Important reminder: use clean, sharp tools. Clean tools work better and last longer. Plant diseases can be spread by dirty and contaminated pruning tools. Wash soil from tools and scrub with a stiff brush. Dip tools into a diluted solution of household bleach, using ten parts water to one part bleach. Shears, knives, loppers, pruners, and shovels all require occasional sharpening. Dull blades can be sharpened by you (don’t forget your protective gear) or by the local sharpening shop.

Buddleia: Prune back to 4” to 12” tall in early spring before new growth starts. This yields larger, more spectacular flower clusters as well as keeping the plant smaller and more compact. It also avoids the development of large plants full of dead wood and poor bloom production. Young plants pruned in this manner may be exceptionally vigorous but will slow down as they mature.

Alternate Leaf Buddleia is a spring pruner that blooms on one year old wood. Left alone it will develop a lot of dead twiggy growth in the interior of the plant. Once the plant has achieved mature size, prune it annually after blooming to remove any dead growth and to cut back old flowering shoots back to vigorous new growth.

Elder: Prune back to 6”-12” tall in early spring before new growth starts. This yields lush, full new growth and bountiful blooms as well as keeping the plant smaller and more compact. It also avoids the build-up of woody, old growth that detracts from the plant’s display. You can leave the plant to grow but it will thin out at the base, exposing stems. Rejuvenate every 5 to 8 years with a hard pruning down of the entire plant. If a taller plant is desired, do a two-year pruning. After the first growing season, you should prune the new shoots at the base (half way) in early spring. The two-year-old shoots that were pruned in this way last year should be removed at the base.

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon): Limit pruning to removal of dead or weak growth, and to direct growth for shaping and away from an area the plant is encroaching into. Overgrown specimens may be thinned and cut back quite hard in the spring. Old wood can yield vigorous shoots.

Potentilla: Prune back to 4”-8” tall in early spring before new growth starts. This yields lush full new growth with plentiful flowering as well as keeping the plant smaller and more compact. It also avoids the build-up of woody, old growth that detracts from the plant’s appeal.

Privet: Little, if any pruning is needed. Limit pruning to removal of dead or weak growth, and for shaping. It can be sheared if turned into a hedge, otherwise prune prior to flowering in the early spring. Prune so that the upper part of the plant is narrower than the base to allow enough light to keep the base of the plant full and thick.

Quince: Limit pruning to removal of dead or weak growth, and for shaping. These can be pruned like lilacs.

Spirea, Blue Mist: Prune back 4”- 8” tall in early spring before new growth starts. This yields lush, full new growth with abundant flowering as well as keeping the plant smaller and more compact. It also avoids the build-up of woody, warn out, old growth that detracts from the plant’s appearance.

Proper pruning can turn a good garden into a vibrant, healthy, fabulous garden!

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” — Lady Bird Johnson.

(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)


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