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Pick up shears, prune back blooms before summertime

POSTED: May 31, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Blooming shrubs are a traditional part of the Southern landscape. And with summer almost here, it is time to prune most of our beautiful spring flowering plants.

Pruning allows the flowering plants to prepare for next year’s blooms. Most blooming plants such as azaleas, forsythia, camellia, quince and rhododendron need pruning after they flower. Most can be safely pruned through June, but be aware June is the last month this can be safely done, especially with azaleas.

Blooms begin to form on the old wood and if you prune anything after June, you will lose some or all of your next spring’s flowers. In Georgia, most azaleas and other flowering shrubs set buds in July.

Pruning is one of the most beneficial cultural practices done to maintain healthy woody plants. Knowing when and how to prune for maximum benefits is very important.

Proper pruning techniques require a bit of understanding and the proper timing is essential for successful results. A good rule of thumb is to remember most spring flowering plants such as dogwood and azaleas are normally pruned after they stop blooming. Summer flowering plants such as gardenias and oleander can be pruned starting in late July after they have bloomed. Many hydrangeas can be pruned into July and August as well.

Call the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office for answers about when to prune hydrangeas. Hydrangeas have different pruning times depending on their type.

Remember, most shrubs that bloom through the late summer and early fall bloom on new wood. So it is best to prune into the dormant months of winter. Shrubs in this category include crape myrtle, hibiscus, abelia and beautyberry.

Pruning is a tool for developing and maintaining healthy plants. One may prune to control size and shape while others prune for maximum invigoration of growth leaving a natural shape to a shrub or tree.

Basically two types of techniques are used to prune: heading and thinning. Heading cuts stimulate maximum regrowth near the pruning cut. Thinning cuts are the least invigorating and are used for maintaining a shape of form.

Severe pruning of a plant can be done in most cases, but it needs to be done at the proper time of the year. Never severely prune a plant in the fall. This is not a time when you want a plant stimulating new growth going into the colder months.

Prune at times to best complement the growth characteristics, flowering times and other aesthetic desires. The extension office can answer any questions on pruning times and proper techniques.

Pruning can be intimidating and scary. But rest assured the gardener is safe in pruning beautiful spring flowering shrubs we all enjoyed this year. Just don’t wait too long. July will be here before you know it.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension Office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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