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Coastal Gardening

It's time to prune – but use care

By Bob Hearle

The weather continues to be spring like and almost everything is sprouting and sending up new shoots. Now is the perfect time to prune those plants for the coming season. The question is what should be pruned now and how to prune.

Summer flowering shrubs need to be pruned now. They produce their flowers on “new wood” and so it is necessary to remove older wood. Shrubs such as butterfly bush, camellia, crepe myrtle, Japanese barberry, nandina, rose of Sharon and many rose varieties should be pruned now.

Spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after they finish blooming. These include azalea/rhododendron, hydrangea, Bradford pear, dogwood, forsythia, gardenia, Indian hawthorn, lilac, redbud, pyracantha, wisteria, climbing roses.

These plants produce flowers on “old growth” wood and pruning before they bloom will eliminate all flowering.

Pruning should be used to remove dead or damaged branches and/or reshape the plant. If it is too large then selectively prune back a third of the plants each year to provide rejuvenation. It is easier to prune before leaves appear when possible.

Always prune branches at a 45 degree angle and above a bud so that new growth will continue. If you prune below the last bud then it is likely the branch will die, as it no longer has a purpose to be there. Never prune the “leader” from a tree as it will stifle its growth and change its characteristic shape. The only exception would be if it is damaged.

To make your plant bushier you should prune above an outward facing bud.

To make it taller prune above an inward facing bud.

Evergreens such as pines will produce “candles,” the future branches and needles. To limit growth or shape the tree you should cut the “candles” back or eliminate one or more completely. For the answer to specific pruning questions you should consult your local garden center.

Remember that if you prune too many branches you are removing leaves and these leaves contain chlorophyll that produce food to support growth and flowering/fruiting.

There is still time to have your soil tested. Knowledge of what your soil needs will help produce healthier lawns, vegetable gardens and annuals/perennials.

Next column will discuss starting your seeds and preparing your vegetable garden soil for maximum yield. Continue to enjoy our “winter” weather and remember daylight saving time begins March 11.

Send me an e-mail with your comments and questions.

Bob Hearle is a certified master gardener who lives and gardens at Pawleys Island.

Previous columns

  • A start on the new gardening year
  • Preparing for the holidays
  • Fall garden chores
  • The second season
  • Higher ed center classes
  • Plants that bring the tropics home
  • Chores for the doldrums
  • On the edge of summer
  • Plant hardiness and Zone 8B
  • Green ideas
  • Getting plants ready for spring
  • Reading your soil test
  • Prune plants for health and to promote growth
  • Seed propagation
  • Introduction / Soil tests

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