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Second Step to Spring | Pruning & Protecting


While pruning can often be associated with controlling winter damage and plant injury, such as removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches, it also offers a wealth of additional benefits that extend far beyond these remedial purposes. Pruning is a crucial tool for shaping our shrubs, allowing us to guide their growth and achieve the desired aesthetic in our gardens. Through careful pruning, we can encourage plants to develop a strong structure, enhancing their natural beauty and making them more resilient to weather conditions and pests.


Winter Pruning


If during your inspection last week, you encounter discolored, desiccated, or split bark on your shrubs, it indicates that the plant has suffered from a winter injury. While this sounds severe, there are steps you can take to help your shrubs recover. 


Start by pruning away the damaged parts, making sure to cut back to healthy wood, but avoid removing more than a quarter of the plant's total foliage in one year. 


Once the winter damage has been addressed, it's essential to provide proper care to the affected shrubs for the remainder of the season, allowing them to fully recover.

  • Always ensure they have sufficient water and nutrients. Regularly watering them, especially during dry periods, helps stave off additional stress.

  • Applying a balanced, slow-release fertilizer can also assist the plant in bouncing back.

  • Moreover, avoid the use of pesticides until the plant has fully recovered, as pesticides can also add additional stress.

Remember, patience is key. It might take some time for your shrubs to fully recover, but with consistent care, most can bounce back from winter damage.


A Necessary Trim for Healthier Growth


Pruning is not just an act of cutting back damaged parts, but it also helps to boost the overall growth, health, and flowering of your shrubs.  By removing old or overgrown branches, you allow for better air circulation and light penetration. Pruning in late winter or early spring is ideal as plants are still dormant, and any cuts made will heal quickly without stressing the plant. More importantly, it's before the new growth starts, ensuring that the energy of the plant is directed towards creating fresh, healthy shoots.


This second step of pruning is about precision and encouraging healthier growth in your garden. It involves removing selective parts of plants like branches, buds, or roots, and can be a meticulous process but it is crucial for the overall health and aesthetic of your shrubs.


Before you start, remember to use clean and sharp tools to avoid causing any unnecessary damage to your plants. When you're pruning, aim to cut about 1/4 inch above a bud. Be sure to angle your cut towards the direction you want the new branch to grow. This will ensure that you're promoting growth in the desired direction. By following these guidelines and regularly pruning your shrubs, you're setting your garden up for a blooming and productive spring season.


Know Before You Prune


Knowing your plants before pruning them is of paramount importance. Pruning at the wrong time or in the wrong way can cause significant harm, inhibiting growth or even lead to the death of the plant. Each species has its own unique requirements for pruning, from the right season to the correct method. Determining the best time to prune involves understanding the plant's life cycle so as not to interrupt vital growth periods or cut off future blooms. Moreover, knowing where to make cuts on the plant is crucial; improper cuts can cause damage, leaving the plant vulnerable to disease or pest infiltration. Hence, familiarizing yourself with your plants' specific needs before pruning is an essential step in maintaining a healthy and vibrant garden.


In Southwestern Pennsylvania, the pruning schedule is largely determined by the type of plant and its corresponding growth cycle. Spring-flowering shrubs and trees, such as Lilacs and Rhododendrons, should ideally be pruned immediately after they finish blooming, which is usually in late spring. On the other hand, most summer-flowering plants are generally pruned in late winter or early spring, as they bloom on new growth.


Some Common Plants in Southwestern Pennsylvania that Require Pruning


  1. Hydrangeas: Depending on the variety, hydrangeas may require pruning in late winter or early spring. Those that bloom on new wood, like panicle and smooth hydrangeas, can be pruned in late winter or early spring as new growth develops. Varieties that bloom on old wood, such as bigleaf hydrangeas, should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming in summer.

  2. Clematis: This climbing plant has different pruning needs based on the variety. Some bloom on current year’s growth and can be cut back hard in late winter or early spring. Others bloom on last year’s growth and should be pruned lightly in early spring to remove dead or damaged wood. 

  3. Berries: Depending on the variety, raspberries and blackberries should be pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This helps to improve fruit production and overall plant health.

  4. Roses: Most types of roses, including hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras, should be pruned in early spring when the leaf buds start to swell. Pruning helps to improve air circulation and shape the plant, promoting healthier and more abundant blooms.

  5. Summer-Blooming Shrubs: Shrubs that bloom in summer, such as butterfly bush, rose of Sharon, and Potentilla, should be pruned in late winter or early spring. Pruning reinvigorates these shrubs, leading to better flowering in summer as they bloom on new wood.


Thus, pruning is not merely about damage control—it's a comprehensive care procedure that optimizes plant health, aesthetics, and productivity. Don't forget, if you're not sure how to prune your plants, come see us at the greenhouse and ask one of knowledgeable staff members. We're happy to assist you in all your gardening needs. See you down the Road!


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