The spring blooming shrubs are full of buds and will soon be bursting with color (and none too soon, I might add). I’m speaking of the earliest of the spring bloomer . . . forsythia, fothergilla, spirea, mock orange, lilacs, weigelia, azaleas, and rhododendrons. It seems that I notice more need for pruning when the shrubs are in full bloom, maybe because the branches are highlighted with color at this time.
When to prune and how to prune can be daunting tasks unless you think your way through the life cycles of the shrub. Taking the task one step at a time makes the job much easier.
All of the aforementioned early bloomers develop their buds on last summer’s growth, considered to be old growth. Knowing that the buds are developed in the summer and fall, we also know that If the shrub is pruned in late fall or winter, the buds will be removed and thus, no spring bloom. The spring bloomers should be pruned immediately after blooms have faded and dropped off; and absolutely no later than the first of July.
Knowing the time of year to prune will result in having blooms for the following year. Next, the decision needs to be made about what to eliminate – another daunting thought! Again, take it one step at a time. NC State University has very good articles on basic details on pruning trees and shrubs: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/pruning-trees-and-shrubs.pdf If you need more assistance for specific plants, the following is a great guideline for individual shrubs: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/how-to-prune-specific-plants.pdf.
It really isn’t as difficult when the process of pruning is taken a step at a time. Just do it!
Article written by Patsy McNatt, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.