Shrubs: Keep Thinning or Replace It?

Keep a thinning shrub or replace it?

Sometimes when you look out at your landscape, especially in the transition of winter/spring when it’s especially gray, the shrubs can look a little tired.  It’s natural for some shrubs to thin out, showing more branches than leaves.  The question now is, can we revive it or should we replace it?  First take a look at the sunlight in this area.  We know the sun will change its location throughout the summer, so as long as the shrub was planted in the right sunlight, we can check that off of our list.  What about trees or other shrubs growing nearby?  Was this particular shrub planted when there was a lot of sun and now that the landscape has grown up, it’s a shadier spot?  Some plants can tolerate this change and may just need a haircut, some food and regular water checking to thrive.  Other plants may merely survive this location and can be transplanted or completely removed.

If you’ve decided to keep the shrub, you can start the revival process!  This is a slow process, and you can expect the shrub to bounce back a bit the first season.  By the third season, if growing in the right light/soil/water/nutrient conditions and no pests are feasting on the plant, the shrub will grow with vigor.  The first step would be to thin the dead stems from the shrub.  Moving forward, remove one or two of the largest branches to the ground to keep up with the thinning process.  Step two, give the plant a haircut!  Trim the branches, but only remove about 1/3 of the entire size of the shrub – leave 2/3 to grow.  The next step is to vertical compost around the shrub.  This will open up soil space, provide better water retention and give the plant natural nutrients to help it thrive.  Finally, if you mulch this area with wood chips, apply a thin layer – only 1-2”.

         -Angie Vandersnick, NNCG Landscape Designer

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