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kateavatar3.jpgSpring is almost over in the south, and those wonderful blooms that lit up the landscape have fallen off in favor of late spring flowers and shady trees. That makes it a perfect time to prune azaleas and other spring flowering shrubs.
 

The prime reason to prune these shrubs is to keep them in reasonable shape for your landscape as well as to create well shaped shrubs. This is considerably easier if you have made wise choices for your garden by picking shrubs that are naturally an appropriate size for the space. If you want a neat three foot hedge, do not pick a tall growing shrub like forsythia!

Pruning is also important for keeping some multi-stemmed shrubs, such as winter honeysuckles (Lonicera fragrantissima), healthy.

azaleacupcake.jpgPruning Azaleas:
Azaleas are traditionally spring flowering shrubs, blooming on last year’s wood. There are, however, some new azaleas that combine this trait with those of the ones that bloom on new wood, making a repeat blooming azalea, and confusing the homeowner who wants to prune.

For both these varieties, the first burst of blossom is still going to be on the old wood and occur in spring. When the bloom is spent, that is a good time to prune. Take the dead flowers off the shrub and cut the stems down to a junction. Check the shape of the shrub and prune back any lop-sided areas and small branches that are sticking out. Do not prune excessively. Over the summer, new branches will form and create buds for next year, or, in the case of summer blooming azaleas, the new branches will flower. Then leave it alone until next year. Making azaleas into tightly pruned boxes by constantly pruning every little branch that dares to stick out is going to make much more work for the homeowner than necessary and reduce blooms for next year. Additionally constant, heavy pruning makes the azaleas look like gaudy pink cupcakes which are fine for a kids party, but not for a landscape.

Pruning Multi-Stemmed Shrubs:
These shrubs, such as forsythia, will bloom on old wood and give a great display each spring. Many bloom before the new leaves come out, making the blossom that much more attractive. The problem is that for many of these, the blossom dwindles as the shrub ages. The solution is to prune a few stems from the base each year. This allows new growth to constantly grow up into the shrub and over time will keep the shrub in a youthful state. A general rule of thumb is to prune out 1/3 of the oldest branches each year after year two. This contains the overall size of the shrub as well as keeping a good proportion of young, healthy stems growing.

For the majority of spring shrubs, this annual pruning is all that you need to do. Allow the new growth to develop buds for next year and put your pruning tools away!

Kate is a gardener, a garden writer and a garden educator living in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for national magazines and local newspapers, plus hosts a weekly radio show. You can visit here website at www.katecopsey.com, her blog at www.katesgardenjournal.com , or drop her a message at her profile page or her profile on theMulch.com.

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