Regular contributor, Megan Wild shares some great tips on how to take back control of your yard , and keep your plants healthy with tips for trimming your shrubs.
Shrubs – 5 Hassle-Free Trimming Tips
Take back control of your yard, and keep your plants healthy.
If you’ve ever gone out to give your shrubs a quick trim, only to find it so hard to keep them even that you end up cutting off way too many branches, you’re probably hesitant to make the same mistake twice. I know how that feels, because that’s how my first trim went. Unfortunately, under-trimming your shrubs can lead to just as many problems as over-trimming them, as you’ll end up with overgrown bushes with lots of deadwood and poor flowering.
Luckily, proper pruning isn’t hard to learn, and you’ll get good results if you take your time. Follow these tips for hassle-free shrub trimming:
Know When to Cut
Different types of plants flower at different times of the year, and the timing of their life cycles typically determines when you should prune them. Evergreen shrubs can be pruned almost any time of year except the fall, when new growth will be vulnerable to dieback from the winter cold. Flowering shrubs should be cut back at a time when flower buds won’t be removed.
For early bloomers like lilacs, shape them immediately after blooming. Summer bloomers can be cut back in the winter. Hydrangeas are the exception: Shape these in midsummer so you don’t accidentally remove the flower buds.
Start With the Dead Stuff
If you’re nervous about just how much to cut and where to begin, it’s always a good idea to start with the deadwood. Your plant will never miss these, and cutting out broken branches is a good way to prevent disease. Cut below the break to give your plant a clean wound that will easily heal. Your bush won’t miss dead branches, so don’t worry yet about shaping – just get rid of them.
Sometimes, removing dead wood is all you need to make your shrubs look like their old selves, so stand back and look at the plant’s shape before making any more cuts. For a quick shape up, cut only the twigs and branches that are sticking out beyond the natural shape of your bush. Resist the urge to make a lot of cuts at once – it’s best to go slow and take a step back to assess so you don’t end up cutting too much at once.
Avoid Right Angles and Odd Shapes
The best pruning allows the plant to grow in a natural way, so unless you’re Edward Scissorhands or work at Disney World, don’t try to form strange shapes with your shrubs. Right angles should be avoided, and this is true even of box hedges. These plants need sunlight for photosynthesis and good health, so make sure bottom branches are slightly wider than the tops so they also receive sunlight. Flat tops are also a bad idea, as the weight of ice and snow will break the branches.
Do a Little Research
Because each plant has its own natural shape and growing habit, there’s no hard and fast rule about trimming shrubs that works for everything. Though you should consider that trimming shrubs helps increase curb appeal, makes your home a more welcoming place for guests, and can even increase your home’s market value. Your best bet is to do a little internet research about your plant to see what experts recommend.
You can also visit a local nursery or get advice from a neighbor with a green thumb if you need help identifying a bush or learning the basics about garden tools and techniques. Pruning is also good for the health of the plant, so give it a try – it doesn’t have to be scary! Once you know all about your plant, go ahead and give it a trim at least once a year to maintain its shape.
Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!
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