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When to prune bushes

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Knowing when to prune bushes will keep them in great shape year round

Knowing when to prune bushes will keep them in great shape year round

When you prune a bush or any kind of plant you change the growth and the form of that plant. Sometimes pruning is done to prevent the bush or tree from growing into power lines or into structures. Pruning bushes regularly wards off potential problems.

When you prune, you remove dying or dead branches that have been destroyed by storms, animals, insect infestation or disease. This encourages the plant to be healthy. Pruning with the right pruning tools is done because it helps the plant maintain its form or the form that you want it to have and it encourages fruit development and flowering and creates a denser bush.

Pruning controls the size of the plant as well as is a safety measure. Dead branches can fall and kill a person. Bushes, likewise, can create visual problems preventing you from seeing when you are backing out of the driveway when the bush has gotten too big. Keeping bushes pruned is also good for security purposes. You don?t want an unwieldy bush obscuring the entrance to your home.

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Deciding when to prune bushes

Most pruning should be done late in the dormant season right before growth begins in the spring. Dormant pruning is easier to do because there aren?t a lot of leaves that make it difficult for you to see the branch structure of the plant.

Pruning at the right time, eliminates physiological problems that the bush may otherwise experience as well as certain diseases.

Generally, before new growth emerges, either in late winter or early fall, is the best time to trim bushes. If you prune at the wrong time this probably isn?t going to kill your bush, but pruning the bush at the wrong time of year weakens the plant. Keep in mind that pruning your bush right before autumn arrives may arrest the progress of the plant going into dormancy, which can leave it unprotected during the winter.


Bushes and shrubs that bloom early in the spring can be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. This includes lilac bushes, azaleas, flowering cherry or plum, forsythia and spirea. These are flowering bushes. If you have a flowering bush, do not prune it while the flowers are blooming because this can halt flower production. .

However, those bushes and shrubs that are grown because of their foliage and not for their flowers can and should be pruned before their growth starts in the spring. These bushes include honeysuckle, burning bush and barberry, to name a few.

If you have shrub roses or clematis on your property, prune them back to the live wood because they bloom on new growth. This should be done before growth begins in the spring. These plants have what is called marginally hardy stems. Spirea and hydrangeas are hardier and bloom later. They should be pruned down to the first pair of buds that are above ground.

You can start training your bush how you want it to grow during the dormant season that comes after planting. When doing this, remove branches that are growing inward and remove branches that cross. If the branches are too close together remove some of them. If you want to raise the crown or bottom of the bush, remove lower branches as the bush begins to grow.

When you are pruning a bush that is a bare root deciduous shrub, prune out the diseased, cross/circling and broken branches just like you would do on a tree. If your bush is new, it probably isn?t going to require much pruning at first, particularly if it was container grown.

Don?t overly prune, especially young plants, because you may kill them.


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