We have been waiting all winter to get out in our yards and take advantage of the warmer weather. While your list may be long of things you need to do for your landscape, stop and read this before attacking/hacking your Spring flowering shrubs!
If you are wanting more blooms on your Spring flowering shrubs, the time to plan is now. Did you know that pruning your shrubs is the best way to stimulate them to bloom better? The secret is timing. You need to prune them right after the flowers fade. Pruning can be a little scary, but if you do it the correct way you will not harm your plants. Here are some tips for proper pruning of your Spring blooming flowering shrubs that will stimulate more and bigger blooms next year.
Timing is EVERYTHING!
While pruning is good, timing is critical. Spring blooming shrubs bloom on branches that were formed the prior year. Do not prune in early spring because you will cutting off this season’s flowers. The key is to prune just after the flowers have spent. This will allow the shrub the time it needs to form new summer growth for next year’s flowers. While if you cut too late, you cut off the buds for next spring and you will miss out on the beautiful blooms you want for a year. You can also cut back too much and lose your blooms for next year.
DO NOT FEAR! Below are some illustrations that will show you the correct way to prune.
How to deadhead a shrub
As you can see in this illustration, deadheading is snipping off just the spent flowers. On deciduous shrubs, you can usually see new leaves sprouting at the base of the dying flowerhead. This makes the decision of where to cut easier on shrubs with large flowers, like Lilacs or Viburnum.
Spring is also the time to deadhead your evergreen shrubs such as rhododendron and mountain laurel, just be careful not to take off too much. The evergreen shrubs grow slower than deciduous shrubs and therefore will take longer to recover from over pruning. With these shrubs, simply grab the base of the flower cluster and give it a twist to snap it off. It is best to do this task early in the day, the sun will wilt the stem making it harder if you wait too late.
Tips for thinning spring-flowering shrubs
So are you wondering how on earth you will deadhead a forsythia, mockorange or deutzia or something similar??? That would be a lot, but for these flowering shrubs you will want to thin them instead. For shrubs like these, which have lots of small blossoms along the branches, you will need to trim back each stem tip after flowering to encourage more side branches and maintain the shape of the plant. Then remove a few of the older stems, cutting about a third of them down to within a few inches of the ground. The new stems that result from making these cuts will produce the best flowers over the next two to three years. As those stems mature, you take some of them out every year to make room for more new growth. This technique is called “thinning,” and you can see where to make cuts in the illustration above.
Guide to pruning spring-flowering shrubs
Pruning spring-flowering shrubs is that simple. Deadheading and thinning are the only two pruning techniques you need to know to get more flowers for the 38 shrubs featured in the chart we found below.
You may also like to read our previous posts on pruning hydrangeas https://www.designscapesofnc.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1487&action=edit
|Plant nameBotanical name||Blooms||Deadhead or Thin||Tips|
|Pink; early spring||Thin||Thin half or more to produce more branches to keep the plant as dense as possible|
|Pink, midspring||Thin||Thin every spring to help prevent this plant from growing ragged and leggy|
Camellia japonica and hybrids
|Red, pink, white; early spring||Deadhead||Deadhead to keep the plant tidy, but don’t worry if you can’t reach them all; this shrub resents heavy pruning|
|White; spring||Thin||Thin after blooming, however you’ll lose the colorful late-season fruit|
|Yellow; early spring||Thin||Thin no more than a third to maintain the height; does produce some fruit, but it’s not showy|
|Pink; midspring||Deadhead or Thin||Remove dead wood first; shear lightly to deadhead and promote more flowering side branches|
|White; early spring||Thin||For a natural look, thin up to half of the branches; for a compact habit, cut all stems to the ground|
|Dogwood, cornelian cherry
|Yellow; early spring||Thin||Thinning lets you see the small flowers easier, but it does reduce the bright red fall fruit|
|White; late spring||Thin||Thin to maintain height and flowering; cut all stems to the ground for the most red winter stems|
|Yellow; early spring||Thin||Cut a third to half of the old stems to the ground and shorten the rest each spring|
|White; early spring||Thin||Cut out up to half of the old wood each spring; in summer snip off a few tips to keep it looking tidy|
|White; midspring||Deadhead||Deadhead back to a side branch to develop a fuller, more compact habit|
|Dark pink; midspring||Thin||Thin lightly to maintain natural form; prune the ends of all stems to promote a more compact habit|
|White; mid- to late spring||Deadhead||Flowers often drop off clean, but pinch out spent blossoms to keep the plant tidy|
|White; late spring to summer||Thin||Evergreen shrub needs only a light thinning to keep it tidy; black fruit hangs on through winter|
|White; late spring||Thin||Loose, arching habit; thin after it flowers to keep the plant tidy, however you’ll forfeit the black fruit|
|Yellow; midspring||Thin||Thin to help keep this loosely branched shrub tidy; stems are bright green even in winter|
|Purple, pink, red, white; midspring||Deadhead||Deadhead to keep tidy; thin up to a third of the stems every few years to reduce height|
|White; late spring||Thin||Thin out stems that are two years old or more; shorten other stems to produce more side stems|
|Red, pink, white; spring||Deadhead||Evergreen; deadhead spent flowers; don’t thin more than third of the branches if you need to rejuvenate|
|Pale pink, white; late spring||Thin||Thin several of the oldest stems to the ground each year; snip a few tips to grow more side branches|
|Yellow; midspring||Thin||Thin out oldest wood to keep the shrub flowering and fresh looking; can also be sheared for size|
Exochordaspp. and hybrids
|White; midspring||Thin||Thin up to half the stems to keep the loose form more dense and filled with flowers|
|White; spring||Deadhead||Evergreen; deadhead spent flowers to tidy the appearance|
|White; late spring||Thin||Thin this evergreen for a casual, informal look; can be sheared into a formal style|
|White; late spring||Thin||Thin or train as an espalier; too much pruning reduces the amount of colorful fall fruit|
|Red, pink, white; midspring||Thin||Thin after flowering; cut back tips of branches in summer to promote new flowers|
|Rhododendron and Azaleas
Rhododendronspp. and hybrids
|Pink, red, white; spring||Deadhead||Both evergreen and deciduous; deadhead; snip out errant stems at the same time to tidy the shape|
|White; early spring||Thin||Thin only lightly or you’ll reduce the summer fruit|
|Yellow; early spring||Thin||Thinning promotes more branches, but you will lose some of the bright red fall fruit|
|Spirea, baby’s breath
|White; early to midspring||Thin||Thin up to half to maintain height, or cut all stems to the ground to rejuvenate each spring|
|White; early to midspring||Thin||Thin out oldest stems and clip back other stems to promote more flowering side branches|
|White; late-spring||Thin||Thin out up to a third of the oldest stems; snip off tall stems to force more side branches|
|Dark red; late-spring||Thin||Thin out a few of the oldest stems; to keep the shrub dense, also shorten back a few of the tips|
Viburnum plicatum tomentosum
|White; midspring||Deadhead||Keep pruning to a minimum or you may ruin the layered habit this shrub is known for|
|Pale pink; midspring||Deadhead||Deadhead back to a side branch; does produce fruit, but it’s not showy|
|Yellow; early spring||Thin||Rarely needs much pruning, but a light thinning of upper branches will show off the flowers better|
|Yellow, orange; late winter to early spring||Thin||Rarely needs much pruning; remove suckers and do a light thinning to show off the flowers better|