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By Brad Tipton – OSU Extension Educator
When and how shrubs should be pruned depends on the shrub in question, when it flowers and how it is being used in the landscape. This brief article on pruning should be helpful as pruning time nears.
Spring-flowering shrubs should only be pruned after they bloom in the spring. If spring-flowering plants are pruned before they bloom, most of the flower buds which formed the previous fall will be removed. Forsythia, flowering quince, lilacs, bridal wreath, azalea and viburnums are some of the more common spring-flowering shrubs homeowners will deal with in their landscapes.
Summer-flowering shrubs, like roses, crape myrtles, goldflame spirea and Rose-of-Sharon should be pruned in the early spring before foliage emerges. Late February or early March is a great time to prune this group of shrubs. Spring is when these plants will set their flower buds, so pruning summer-flowering shrubs after they leaf out will remove most of their flower buds.
Evergreen shrubs tend to have a flush of growth in the spring and another in the fall. The best time to prune evergreens occurs just prior to one of the growth flushes. Pruning just prior to a new flush of growth, will let the new foliage hide the cuts.
In the spring, prune evergreens in early March, along with the summer flowering shrubs. Another good time to prune evergreen landscape plants is in late August or early September, before the fall flush of growth occurs in mid-September.
Shrubs in a formal hedge should be trimmed flat on top. The sides should be cut on an angled plane that makes the shrub wider closest to the ground. This gives the hedge’s sides a slight outward tilt from top to bottom for more uniform sunlight distribution, which ultimately creates a thicker foliage canopy.
Power hedge clippers are an excellent tool for creating beautiful, formal looking hedges. It is very hard to get that uniform, flat-sheared surface look with a set of hand shears.