If those shrubs you planted when you moved in years ago have gotten big enough to require a new ZIP code, the time has come to consider pruning. With a little care and contemplation, the haircut you give them will leave them looking fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to burst forth with blooms year after year.
Timing is everything if you want to keep flowering shrubs looking great, so mark your calendars for getting out the pruners. Then take a few moments to plan your approach, keeping your snips to a minimum – removing no more than one-third of the shrub each season.
Shrubs that flower in spring form their blooms during the previous summer. To keep the show dazzling year after year, hold off on pruning until just after flowering is finished in early summer. In the two weeks that follow blossoming, reshape your plant.
Most shrubs need a light trim to keep them contained, so make each snip count by focusing on those branches that are long and leggy. Though this takes time, prune off branches one by one, sculpting the plant into a natural looking shape.
Make cuts one-quarter inch above a bud to force branching to fill in leggy bottoms and new growth that blooms more freely. Broom plants should not be cut heavily; remove only one-third of the branch tip, taking care to avoid cutting into old wood.
Planted where they can ramble, junipers don’t need much pruning. But if you’ve got one near a sidewalk or drive that’s starting to take over, give it a custom haircut to leave it looking natural and well behaved.
Prune anytime except in late summer, when the clipping stimulates new growth that won’t harden off in time for winter. Avoid cutting the plant in sub-zero temperatures in winter.
Junipers put on new growth from the tips; if your plant is severely overgrown, a hard prune into bare wood will leave a bald spot. Choose your cuts carefully, and head back each branch to an actively growing, upward facing side shoot. This will encourage the plant to fill in.
The creamy white interior wood of juniper is very obvious against the dark mass of needles. Keep those stubs unobtrusive by angling your cuts downward, so the white won’t show.
Tools for the job:
- For shoots less than one-half inch thick, use bypass pruners for a clean cut instead of anvil pruners, which crush the wood.
- Loppers are used for stems up to 1 ½ inches in size.
- Saws should be used on any branch thicker than 1 ½ inches.
This post previously appeared in the Longmont Ledger.