Summer Shrub Pruning – The Right Way

This beauty berry has just been pruned.

Typical INCORRECT way overgrown shrubs are hacked.

Instead of hacking back new shoots, if they are not too big they can be removed by breaking them out.

Another way to reduce the size of a shrub is to remove an entire shoot back to where it came off of another stem. In other words, trace it back to the stem it came off of and remove at that point.

This time of the year new growth is all over most of our shrubs. Whether evergreen or deciduous new growth is everywhere on healthy plants. So the natural reaction is to shear them back in some unnatural form or to simply hack the plant back to the size you want it now. Neither option is a good solution. Right now the best way is to approach reducing the size of a plant in two ways. One is to simply to break out new growth off the stem it is growing on, if it will easily break by bending it with your fingers. If it will not break easily, then use pruners to accomplish the same task. If the plant is just growing too big for its space because of the spring flush of growth, I suggest that you trace the unwanted stems to their point of origin and remove there. Both of these methods allow the plant to keep its original look instead of being “hacked” and ugly. The one exception is that if flower blooms are budding or blooming, wait until after they have finished to do your summer pruning. A well pruned shrub should not looked pruned unless the landscape was designed to create a certain pruned effect.

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.

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