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A Guide to Pruning Shrubs When homeowners say they are planning on pruning their shrubs, they often mean they are going to ‘shear’ their shrubs. Inasmuch as shearing has its uses in landscaping, it is almost always done for aesthetic reasons and infrequently results in a plant that was wholesome. Pruning on the other hand, if done correctly, leaves the plant more healthy and shaped according to its natural shape. Good pruning consistently results in the more vigorous plant that is healthier. Good pruning also leaves the shrub in its true form, not shaped into something else. Any pruning should start with the removal of any crossing or dead branches. Crossing branches are those that grow inward toward or crossing the inside of the shrub. These are not useful and may inhibit the development of desirable branches by shading the interior of the plant. When the dead and crossing branches have been rid of, you’ll need to determine which type of pruning the shrub needs: whether maintenance or rejuvenation pruning.
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Maintenance pruning is needed several times annually and calls for only removing unwanted branches to keep a natural shape. Look for long branches that seem misplaced. Reach to the middle of the plant, when removing, and locate the point of natural branching. That is the location you need to make the cut.
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The cut should be in a manner that allows water to run off. Make the cut 1/4 of an inch above the bud node. The bud node is where there will be the start of growth, so select a node pointing in the direction of the desired growth. Settling upon a node pointed toward the middle of the plant can lead to a branch that is crossing. Rejuvenation pruning needs to be reserved for plants that are older. As plants age, branches or leading stems lose their vigor and be unproductive. As the name suggests, rejuvenation pruning means precisely what it says, it rejuvenates older plants by returning them to their prior vigor and shape. There are two approaches to get this done, one is extreme and the other is less intense. Sometimes called renewal pruning, this severe pruning involves cutting at the plant totally back to a height of six to twelve inches. It’s not appropriate for many shrubs since this could be very difficult on a plant, so seek advice from the local greenhouse, extension agent or research it yourself. Time is also crucial with this sort of pruning as the plant will need time to recover. In the event the plant continues to be fairly vigorous, in the event that you would like to rejuvenate the shrub but nevertheless keep its form or in the event the shrub cannot manage a severe cutback, it is possible to do a less severe long-term rejuvenation. Sticking to these straightforward techniques will keep your shrubs vigorous, healthy, and, in the event of flowering shrubs, covered in blooms year after year.