Plants requiring ‘drastic pruning’ immediately to keep them healthy

Gardening experts at The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said shrubs can be “easily renovated by drastic pruning”.

Pruning shrubs is essential to keep the plants “healthy and [to] improve flowering”, the RHS said.

Hard pruning stimulates new growth, and is suitable for:

  • Berberis
  • Bridal wreath (Spiraea)
  • Deutzia
  • Dogwood (Cornus) – those grown for coloured stems
  • Flowering currant (Ribes)
  • Fuchsia
  • Hazel (Corylus)
  • Leycesteria
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus)
  • Smoke bush (Cotinus)
  • Willow (Salix).

How to drastically prune shrubs

The first step is to cut all stems by four to eight inches from the ground, or to branches low down (eight to 18 inches) in the shrub.

By spring, you will need to have kept an eye on regrowths to cut back on the weakest, worst-placed shoots.

In March, you can then follow up this harsh pruning method with a feed and mulch.

In case you have any of the following shrubs, a more staggered approach to pruning is required.

Do not drastically prune these shrubs:

  • Acer palmatum
  • Hamamelis (witch hazel)
  • Magnolia.

Instead, these shrubs require pruning over a longer period of time, maybe two to three years.

This is to “gauge response or maintain the natural shape” of the shrub.

A step-by-step process to prune shrubs not suitable for harsh pruning includes removing dead, damaged, diseased, crossing and rubbing shoots down to ground level. You may notice the following plant diseases and problems:

  • Coral spot
  • Bacterial canker
  • Bracket fungi
  • Verticillium wilt.

Next, cut back older stems by half, to a vigorous side shoot or healthy outward-facing bud.

By year two, thin out new shoots (if excessive) and shorten the remaining older branches.

By the third year, remove older steams and then follow it up with feed and mulch in spring.

If you do not prune each year, over time, shrubs can become overcrowded and “less productive”.

Do note that hard pruning may result in the loss of flowers for a year or two, but when flowers return, they will be beautiful.

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