Spring Pruning

One of the first signs that I look for to know that spring has finally arrived are blooming shrubs like bridal wreath spirea, forsythia, and quince.  The red flowers on quince seem to pop out just when I am starting to think that winter will never end, and my bridal wreath spirea gets the season going with showy white flowers.  These early spring blooming shrubs are great to have in the landscape to add color to your landscape earlier in the year.

If you have spring-blooming shrubs, one thing to keep in mind is that they should be pruned in late spring soon after flowering.  Spring flowering shrubs set their buds in the fall on last season’s growth.  If you prune them in the winter like we recommend for many other trees and shrubs, you will prune off all the buds for spring flowering.

Spring-blooming shrubs that bloom on last year’s growth include

redbud, Japanese quince, Fringe Tree, all Forsythia species, Honeysuckle, Indian Hawthorn, some climbing and rambling roses that bloom once, Bridal Wreath Spirea, and Viburnum species.  This list also includes Azaleas and Rhododendrons, but we have a hard time growing those in our high pH soils, so I would not recommend planting them in Williamson County.

When you prune shrubs, remember that it should be to thin and rejuvenate.  Shrubs perform better when they are pruned in a more natural shape, rather than shearing the sides to create a square or sphere.  Make selective cuts on the oldest and tallest stems and prune them back to the point of origin on the parent stem or ground level.  Take a step back several times throughout the pruning process to make sure that you are making balanced pruning cuts.  You do not want a lopsided shrub!

I cannot wrap up my advice on spring shrub pruning without one more reminder about crape myrtles.  Crape myrtles do not need to be pruned back to the trunk.  In fact, this invites pests and very weak branch connections.  If your crape myrtle is too tall, you can cut it down to the ground and let it regrow or remove it and plant a smaller variety.

For more information about trees or other lawn and garden topics, contact County Extension Horticulturist Kate Whitney-Hajda at the Williamson County AgriLife Extension Office at 512-943-3300.

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