July 4, 2014

To Prune or Not To Prune...

That always seems to be the question from my customers and gardening friends. The answer is always... Prune! Don't be afraid to prune - when in doubt err on the side of cutting that plant!

I don't even worry too much about when. I know most garden books will say "best pruned in fall or cut back in the spring." That may be true but my theory is "If it needs cutting do it now". God created plants to grow back. Nothing is more unattractive in a garden than a leggy plant. Besides, every time you prune, you create the opportunity for the plant to put out more branches and leaves and flowers.

Look at the before and after of this Autumn Joy sedum.
See all the new growth on the "after" picture. Every one of those stems will produce a flower.  I'm sure there are plants out there somewhere that don't respond well to pruning but honestly I don't know of any.

To get more blooms next year on your Hydrangea, prune it after the blooms fade. If you prune before the plant blooms in the spring you will prune off this year's flowers. Hydrangea bloom on new wood so if you cut the flowers off as soon as they start to fade, you will get lots more branches and lots more blooms next year.

Azaleas, viburnum, spirea, weigela, petunias, geranium, butterfly bushes, coleus are just a few of the plants that benefit from pruning.

There is much controversy about cutting back clematis. Remember it takes at least three years to establish a Clematis vine. I have grown Clematis successfully for years. I prune mine when they get too big for their trellis or if they seem to have very thin week vines. I prune all my varieties in the fall - I can't make myself prune off the tiny buds in spring. I know the books say there are three types of Clematis and they should be pruned according to the type - I pretty much ignore that and prune as needed in fall. So far in 20 years of beautiful Clematis this has worked for me. The fall pruning causes more vines to come up the following spring. I have pruned a big overgrown vine in summer and been rewarded with a new flush of flowers in the fall.

Get your pruning sheers and don't be afraid! The plants will reward you with lots of foliage and flowers!

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