Summer Pruning The Correct Way

Long azalea shoots should be removed before bud set

Long azalea shoots should be removed before bud set.

Cut long shoot of azaleas back deep in the plant at the point of origin

Cut long shoot of azaleas back deep in the plant at the point of origin.

Always prune boxwood where the cuts will not show if possible

Always prune boxwood where the cuts will not show if possible.

Clipping off the blooms as they finish on Crepemyrtle oftentimes will produce a second set of blooms

Clipping off the blooms as they finish on crepe myrtle oftentimes will produce a second set of blooms.

Remove branches that cause the plants to be misshapen at their point of origin

Remove branches that cause the plants to be misshapen at their point of origin.

This time of the year many shrubs need shaping and a light pruning. It is important to prune the colorful hydrangeas and azaleas now, so they will have blooms next year. So, here are a few tips on specific plants.

  • Azaleas – Prune as soon as possible, as evergreen azaleas will be setting their buds for the next bloom season soon. Even if you pruned these after they flowered, many times there are shoots with whorls of stems that look out of place. I like to remove these shoots now so when they flower, the massing will be more of regular vs. erratic look.
  • Boxwood – Oftentimes after boxwoods go through early summer, I like to cut off unwanted shoots and wayward branches. I always try to prune boxwoods so you cannot see the cut. This is very easy with tip pruning, if you go back to a space where other branches and leaves cover the cuts.
  • Crepe myrtle – As the first round of flowers fade, you can cut off the old buds just below the blooms, and oftentimes they will put on a second set of blooms but most of the time they are smaller.
  • Gardenias – Once these finish blooming I cut these plants as severely as needed. I like to prune these now, so they will become dense before the fall weather arrives. This is when I do any type of radical pruning they need. Here is a case where I always fertilize these plants soon after pruning.
  • Hydrangeas – Once the blooms of any of the hydrangeas finish, I like to remove the heads. But the mop head types need to be pruned and shaped now, as they will set next years bud quickly once they are finished blooming.
  • Random Shoots on Evergreens – Go deep into the plants and remove them. Make sure that you do not make a hole into the plant. Stand back and see if removing the awkward shoot improves the look of the plant before making the cut.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

6 thoughts on “Summer Pruning The Correct Way

  1. Can you give some advice on pruing rhodendendrons for each of these scenerios? I have one that is so very sparse I feel like cutting it down but hesitate because it is the only one I have with beautiful white flowers. It has some growth at the base and one long taller branch with flowers. Another one by my heat pump unit is so huge and thick that it is now almost blocking my view out of the second story kitchen window and I cannot reach all the branches.

    • I think you will have to wait until next year after the flower to do any major pruning. The only thing I advise to do now is to make sure all of the left over blooms and seed head even if they are dead be removed. When it is time to prune them next spring I will do a how-to.

  2. Thank you for this great information. Can you tell me when is the best time to prune Wystetia and Bridal Wreath? Thank you.

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