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Pruning Shrubs Cont.

Maintenance pruning is only required a couple of times a year and involves just removing unwanted branches to maintain a natural shape. Look for long branches that look out of place. When removing, reach into the center of the plant and find the point of natural branching. This is the place you want to make the cut. The cut should be at a 45 degree angle to allow water to run off. Make the cut 1/4 inch above a bud node. The bud node is where new growth will begin, so choose a node pointing in the direction of the desired growth. Choosing a node pointed toward the center of the plant will result in a crossing branch. If the shrub is a flowering variety such as azaleas, remember the old adage "Prune after Bloom" if you still want your yearly bloom. Rejuvenation pruning should be reserved for older plants. As plants age, major stems or branches lose their vigor and become unproductive. Rejuvenation pruning means exactly what it says, it rejuvenates older plants by returning them to their prior vigor and form. There are two ways to do this, one drastic and the other is less severe.

Sometimes called renewal pruning, this drastic pruning involves cutting the plant completely back to a height between 6 to 12 inches. Since this can be very hard on a plant, it is not suitable for all shrubs, so check with your local nursery, extension agent or research it yourself before cutting. Timing is also critical with this type of pruning as the plant will need time to recover. Late winter or very early spring is best as the plant is still dormant. Pruning is late Fall or mid-Winter may actually stimulate growth that can then be damaged by the cold. Renewal pruning will result in vigorous growth and by summer stems can then be thinned and trimmed to encourage lateral branching.

If the plant is still fairly vigorous, if the shrub cannot handle a drastic cutback or if you want to rejuvenate the shrub but still maintain its form in the landscape, you can do a less drastic long term rejuvenation. This process spans a three year period, so only one third of the plant is removed at any time. Begin by determining which are the oldest, least productive stems and cut them back to the ground but do not remove more than one third of the plant. The second year, once again review and remove the oldest one third of the stems. Finally in the third year, you will remove the remaining old stems. Now you have a completely new vigorous plant and yet you maintained your desired landscaping during this process.

Following these simple techniques will keep your shrubs healthy, vigorous and, in the case of flowering shrubs, covered in blooms year after year.

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