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Pruning Shrubs

Shearing, sometimes called heading, is used to form shrubs into desired shapes as in a hedge or as a topiary. Although the plants are aesthetically pleasing, they are seldom healthy. Shearing results in stimulating a lot of new growth at the very outside of the plant where the cuts are made. This thick growth then prevents light from reaching the inside of the plant, causing the interior to be limited in foliage and contain mainly branches. The growth at the point of shearing will be very fast, resulting in the need for constant shearing to keep the plant in the desired shape. If you feel you must have that manicured hedge, when shaping the hedge, leave the base wider than the top. This will allow sun to reach the lower branches with the end result of maintaining a healthier plant.

Another reason plants are sheared is that the wrong size plant was chosen for a location. Always remember when purchasing plants to take into account its' mature size. Since most plants come in a varieties of mature sizes, take your time and choose a plant appropriate for the allocated space. If you chose a variety that will grow larger than you need or have allowed space for, you will be constantly shearing it back to the appropriate size. However, if you find yourself in this situation, actual pruning, not shearing, will be easier on you and the shrub.

Proper pruning always results in the healthier more vigorous plant. Proper pruning also leaves the shrub in its true form, not shaped into something it isn't. Take the Crepe Myrtle for example. For years, Crepe Myrtles were cut back to the main trunks every winter, causing the plants to sprout multiple arching stems on each trunk. This shape became associated with the Crepe Myrtle and soon became the norm. Only now are landscapers learning to use different varieties in different locations and allowing the plant to grow as nature intended. These Crepe Myrtles require minimal, care just the removal of unwanted sprouts on the major stems and around the base, and are just as beautiful, if not more so, than the ones that have been "Crepe Murdered".

Any pruning should begin with removal of any dead or crossing branches. Crossing branches are branches that grow inward toward or crossing the inside of the shrub. These are of no use and can inhibit the growth of desired branches by shading the inside of the plant. Once the dead and crossing branches have been removed, you will need to determine what type of pruning the shrub needs: maintenance or rejuvenation.

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