Thursday, October 24, 2002
Steamboat Springs Regular pruning of shrubs promotes safe and healthy growth and makes those shrubs just look good! Pruning is considered an art and a science. It is an art because often gardeners prune to a desired shape or form. The science relates to the effects pruning causes to the shrub. There are many reasons to prune: to maintain a required size or shape of a plant, to remove damaged branches and to encourage new growth and more flowers.
To maintain a desired size of a shrub, you may either shear or prune the shrub. Hedges are sheared (which is removing short lengths of top growth) to allow for a formal effect. Shearing may cause weak growth in deciduous shrubs. Do not shear evergreen shrubs in the fall or winter as drying winds may damage the shrub. Shearing may be necessary on shrubs that are planted too close to a structure or sidewalk.
Selective pruning is choosing certain branches on a shrub and removing them. This is an excellent way to reduce the size of a shrub. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the branches during one growth season. Most shrubs look more natural if selectively pruned.
Some shrubs need to be selectively pruned to remove dead or diseased canes and to reduce height. This may be done in the late winter or after they have bloomed in the spring, unless they are a safety concern. The new growth will bloom its second growth season.
Pruning may increase the amount of flowers on your shrub by encouraging new healthy growth. By pruning on a regular basis, you promote new growth and remove unproductive branches. When the tip of a branch is cut, a chemical reaction occurs in the cane and the latent buds of the branch are stimulated to grow.
It is important to note that food is stored in the branches and severe pruning may remove too much food so the shrub will not have enough energy to flower. To preserve the stored food, the best time to prune is late in the dormant season or late winter.
There are a few tools needed for pruning shrubs. Long hedge shears are the best tool for shearing hedges. Lopping shears are excellent for removing thick stems. Handheld pruning shears are the tool for cutting smaller stems. Hold the pruning shears so the thin cutting blade is next to the main stem for a clean, close cut. To make a cut on a branch cut at a slant, just above a bud. Tools should be cleaned with a bleach solution to avoid transferring disease organisms. Always use common sense and safe practice when operating pruning equipment.
As we approach winter, now is a good time to assess the landscape. Walk through your yard and determine which shrubs need pruning. Make notes about your observations. If you have damaged limbs that are a safety concern, remove them now. Otherwise, this is one job you can procrastinate until the end of winter.
Camille C. Fisher is a Routt County resident and a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail: email@example.com.