Homeowners are eager to get out and do something in the landscape this time of year, especially when the weather is as nice as it’s been. One chore that can be taken care of during March is pruning certain shrubs and trees. Remember, not all shrubs need to be pruned, and certain shrubs that bloom during early spring such as Azaleas, should only be pruned in summer after spring blooming.
Shrubs are pruned to maintain or reduce size, rejuvenate growth, or to remove diseased, dead or damaged branches. Deciduous shrubs are those that lose leaves each winter. Evergreen shrubs maintain foliage all year, such as yews, hollies, and junipers. Shrubs that bloom on current seasons’ growth or that do not produce ornamental flowers are best pruned in March. Pruning during the spring allows wounds to heal quickly without threat from insects or disease. There is no need to treat pruning cuts with paints or sealers, and this could actually harm plants.
There are three basic methods used in pruning shrubs: thinning, heading back, and rejuvenating. Thinning is used to thin out branches from a shrub that has become too dense. It is accomplished by removing most of the inward growing twigs by either cutting them back to a larger branch or cutting them back to just above an outward-facing bud. On multi-stemmed shrubs, the oldest canes may be completely removed. Heading back is done by removing the end of a branch by cutting it back to a bud and is used for either reducing height or keeping a shrub compact. Rejuvenation is the most severe type of pruning and may be used on multi-stem shrubs that have become too large, with too many old branches to justify saving the younger canes. All stems are cut back to 3 to 5-inch stubs.
Use good, sharp tools for pruning, with a little oil or lubricant to help them work better and for protection when putting away until next time.