Many shrubs benefit from some annual pruning. Flowering shrubs bloom better usually on 2 to 3-year-old stems. To keep shrubs at that age, annual pruning is necessary to remove the older stems which stimulate new ones to take their place. A rule of a green thumb is to remove a quarter to a third of the shrub each year.
Shrub pruning may be intimidating. I have scheduled a demonstration for Saturday, March 10. Come to the KSU Gardens at 1500 Denison Ave. at 1 p.m. A few Extension personnel, including me will be instructing the “how to” of pruning.
Pruning deciduous plants at this time of year allows for a good view of the plant. Rubbing and crossing stems can be easily seen and corrected. Broken, perhaps diseased and dead stems are also easier to locate then when leaves are absent. Always prune back to a live bud or to the ground when making a pruning cut.
The function of the shrub determines pruning cuts. A screen or hedge will be pruned to keep the plant full yet allow for good sunlight distribution around the plant. Spring blooming shrubs are typically pruned after blooming to enjoy their flower display. Seed pods that develop after bloom should be removed to improve blooming for next year.
Some of my spring blooming shrubs, I like to prune now. I bring the removed stems indoors to force into bloom. I’m usually too busy to prune these at the preferred time right after bloom. This way I still get the shrubs pruned and enjoy their flowers.
Evergreen types like yews and junipers are pruned prior to the burst of new growth in the spring. Pruning done at that time generally is sufficient for the year. This keeps the plant the same size year round.
A publication on pruning shrubs was developed last fall. It is available at the Extension office and on line at www.ksre.ksu.edu. In the search window, type “pruning shrubs” to download the publication.
If you would like additional information on a horticulture topic, please contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension. Gregg may be contacted by calling 537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.riley.ksu.edu.