Late winter to early spring is the ideal time to prune deciduous shrubs before new growth begins. Although it’s easy to neglect these garden workhorses, view pruning as important to growing a healthy shrub that will set off the rest of your garden efforts.
Start by assessing the condition of your shrubs which is easy to do when they are without leaves. Are they crowded with many stems at the base? Full of thick stems that develop few leaves and flowers at the tips?
Removing 1/4 to 1/3 of the thickest stems of a shrub every year is the best way to maintain vigor, flowering, and avoid disease and insect problems. Prune at the ground and take out whole stems rather than pruning tips. Tip pruning is fine for the occasional stem that has grown out of bounds but should not be the only effort you make to maintain your shrub.
Cut stems with a lopper or pruning saw using care to avoid nicking stems you want to remain. Certain shrubs can also be “rejuvenated” if overgrown by cutting all stems 6 inches from the ground. Check first to see if your shrub species will handle this drastic step and rejuvenate no more frequently than every 5 to 10 years.
Make shrub pruning one of the first action steps to come out of the spring gardening “itch” as you dream about what you want your garden to be this season.
Join Carl at the Gardens to discover in more detail how to keep your shrubs healthy and thriving with this class, How to Prune Shrubs, taking place on Saturday, February 15 (1-3 p.m.) and Wednesday, March 12 (6-8 p.m.).
GUEST BLOGGER: CARL WILSON
Carl Wilson is a garden writer and retired horticulturist from CSU Extension who regularly teaches classes at Denver Botanic Gardens. For more information check his Front Range Food Gardener blog.