All about pruning


Pruning type 2 Clematis Winter prune Wisteria pruning equipment

 All about pruning

Pruning is good for shrubs and plants for many reasons. It helps to shape a plant or shrub, and to keep vigorous plants, such as Wisteria, in check. It is also a opportunity to keep the plant healthy by cutting out damaged branches.  With some plants pruning will help the shrub or plant to produce more flowers. In the wild plants don't get pruned, but then they can become a tangle and a garden is, to one degree or another, trying to make order of plants, cultivation to tame the nature of plants. You only have to see how vigorous are some climbing plants to appreciate without a good prune they would take over.

Some variegated shrubs may lose their variegation on certain branches and pruning those out will help to keep its colour. This is called "reversion" and it occurs when the variegated branch only produces green leaves how to prune out reversion. 

Pruning is can perplexing, what and when to prune. It helps to bear in mind that pruning will not usually kill a plant, unless you prune very hard and cut hard into the wood, especially with plants such as lavender, Wisteria, Artemisia . You may sacrifice flowers if a shrub or plant is pruned at the wrong time. Why is this? If you prune a plant at the wrong time you may cut off the very branches carrying the dormant flower buds,  which is why timing is so important. If you are not sure of the identity of a shrub or plant, and so cannot decide whether or when to prune it, send a quality image to The sunday Gardener for advice on what it is and when to prune. Free plant and shrub identification service

It is also true to say that some of the more difficult plants to grow, tend to be the ones with essential pruning requirements. Wisteria will eventually stop flowering unless pruned twice per year which makes pruning essential. To check out how to grow and prune wisteria, details are on the growing Wisteria  and there are three videos: how to do the summer and winter pruning, and how to make your wisteria flower.

Clematis have fussy pruning requirements  as well, for all but the early flowering varieties. If you don't like pruning, the best clematis for you to grow are the early flowering types such as Montana, Alpina, Cirrhosa,  or the slightly tender, sweet smelling C.Armandii. These early flowering Clematis do not need any pruning. Clematis fall into three groups which decide when they should be pruned, the early flowering Clematis are group 1 which do not require pruning but Groups 2 & 3 do;  full details are on the growing Clematis page and videos.

When to Prune

Generally late winter during February, March and into early April is a good time to prune. February and early March are best of pruning Wisteria and Clematis. Anytime between February and early April is also good for pruning Buddleia, Hydrangeas, Winter Jasmine, and Climbing roses.

With Hydrangea, when you look at the shrub there will be good buds forming quite high up on the branches. Prune above the bud to keep this years flowers,  because  one reason for a lack of flowers is to prune too hard and too low. You can see the buds, keep them and prune just above. 

Conversely Buddleia likes a hard prune at this time and there are full details with images at  Growing Buddleia 

Roses benefit from pruning, well some do more than others. Climbers need less pruning than other types, if the rose has become overgrown, cut back to framework and remove old wood. Its more important with climbers to tie them in well to the support to make sure there are plenty of laterally trained branches to flower well. This means to bend them down so the branches run horizontally. Bush roses prune every year, cut back to about 30 cms cutting just above a bud. In colder areas delay but no later than mid March. Shrub roses need pruning less often,  mainly if they are growing out of shape .

The rule is always prune after flowering. So whilst some evergreen and deciduous shrubs can be pruned at this time of year do not prune in the early months, February to APril  if they flower in the spring in which case always prune after flowering.  This applies to  shrubs such as Philadelphus, Spiraea, Osmathus, Lilac, Fothergill Major, Ribes, Forsythia, Daphne x burkwoodii and many of our garden favourite shrubs, which are spring-flowering, should be left alone until after flowering  and pruned around mid summer. Generally, shrubs do not need pruning unless there is a problem, its grown too big,it is crowding other plants, or has diseased branches. In a mixed border you may want to prune to  lift the canopy at the base of the shrub to allow space for other planting. Again, only after flowering.  These are general principles for more detailed explaination about pruning refer to the individual pages. 



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