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Garden Tips

by | Jan 30, 2020 | Market News

Spring Pruning 101

Most woody plants require periodic pruning to keep the plants healthy and vigorous.

There are 2 types of clematis, spring blooming and summer blooming.

If your clematis blooms in early spring, then the buds set the previous season on old wood; doesn’t die back in winter.  Prune after the blooms are spent in late spring or summer.  Prune only as needed and sparingly.  All you want to do is clear out dead wood and keep the stems tidy.

The other type of clematis blooms in summer and fall.  This clematis blooms on new wood; dies to the ground over winter.  Now is the time to prune these clematises.  Prune all stems back to a strong set of buds about 12 inches from the ground.  This type of clematis are the easiest to prune, since you basically cut the whole thing down.

If you planted your Clematis last spring or fall, give it a first-year trim.  Every variety, regardless of group, should be cut back to about 5 inches from the ground in late winter/early spring the first year after it is planted.  You don’t have to, but if you want a bushier, stronger, tighter growth habit, cut every stem back to 5 inches from the soil.

Red Twig Dogwood
Red- and yellow-twig dogwood usually have the brightest color in young stems.  Old red-twig dogwoods develop mature bark that loses the signature red color.

Your dogwoods should respond well to aggressive pruning for rejuvenation, removing the old stems and encouraging the growth of new stems with red bark.  Prune the oldest canes off at ground level, leaving the young stems.  Prune out about 1/3 of the large stems to ground level or down to lowest side branches as you can.  As the new growth develops over time, prune out any remaining large stems. Each year prune out about a third of the plant.

Honeysuckles tend to grow bushy on the top and shade out the bottom growth.  Pruning will allow sun to reach the bottom.   Removing one-third of the stems each year for three years rejuvenates the plant over time without leaving a hole in the landscape. You should also thin out the top of the plant to let sunlight and air inside.  Good air circulation is essential to prevent diseases like powdery mildew.

Prune a neglected honeysuckle vine by hard pruning to 2ft from the ground in early spring.  This will force new growth from the base of the plant. The resulting stubs will be unsightly at first, but if the plants are healthy, new growth will begin on these old stems.  Note: the vine will most likely not produce flowers until the next year.

Like Clematises, not all hydrangeas should be pruned at the same time.

There are plants that bloom on old growth should only be pruned after flowering.  Shrubs with this characteristic generally begin blooming in early summer and peter out by midsummer.  Prune just as the flowers begin to fade. Often, the earlier you get it done after bloom, the quicker the shrub can  recover, producing more and larger blooms next season.

Others bloom on new growth and should be pruned before they wake up in spring or as they are going dormant in fall.  Shrubs that flower on new wood generally start blossoming later than old-growth bloomers, beginning in midsummer and continuing until the first frost. Recommended pruning height is 2 to 3 feet. To get bigger flowers, cut them all the way back to just above the ground, but many gardeners opt for smaller blooms on sturdier stems.


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