Pruning Guide General Notes:
  • Disinfect your pruners between trimming. This is especially important when pruning out canker, as you can transfer the canker from stem to stem. It is also important when pruning roses, as you can transfer viruses between roses. Once a rose has a virus, I recommend removal and not planting a rose in that spot for at least 5 years. Keep your pruners sharp to reduce the chance of disease problems.
  • Keep your plants on the drier side when it comes to soil conditions. Plants that are too wet are prone to insect and disease infestations.
  • Composting before you lay down mulch will help create the best-looking landscapes. The best trick to a healthy landscape is turning compost into the beds, but not around the crown of the plant.
  • When adding new plants, make sure they have enough room to grow. Crowding plants encourages insect and disease populations. Plant the plants with the crown (where the plant meets the soil) about 2-3” above grade level. Burying the crown can eventually lead to the plant’s death. Some plants (peonies, tomatoes and iris for example) are planted at specific depths and do not follow this general rule.
Shrubs—Early Flowering
  • Prune the plant after the flowers have dropped. You may choose to wait on the fruit bearing plants until after the fruit has formed so you can enjoy the berries! Take 1/3 of the plant away and thin out one cane per season all the way to the ground.
Shrubs—Small to Medium
  • Prune the shrubs to 15-18” tall in the early spring (mid- April). Remove any black or dark gray stems that are dead. If you choose to prune during the summer flower season, cut back the stems ½ way to the ground (i.e. if a stem is 3’ long, cut 1.5’ off from the tip of the flowers). This will create a more compact habit.
Shrubs– Medium to Large
  • Prune the plant in late winter/early spring. Do not take off more than 1/3 of the growth. Try to remove one big cane to the ground each season. Prune just above the bud (where the leaf comes out).
Shrubs– Shaping
  • Shape the boxwoods in the early spring (mid-April). Prune as necessary during the growing season. Only remove about 3-5” off the plant each spring. Heavier shaping can be done in Summer.
Perennials and Ornamental Grasses
  • Cut down to 2-3” above the ground just as the new growth starts to emerge. Don’t cut too early in spring- when we get late freezes, last year’s growth can protect the new foliage. For the flowering plants, once their first bloom is done and you see more “dead” blooms that colorful blooms, cut the flower stems back to inside of the plant- about 2-3” above the ground. This will get rid of the dead flower stems, make the plant appear more compact and help to stimulate another fresh bloom cycle. You may cut up to 3 times per year to keep the blooms going. Stop trimming August 15th to allow the plant preparation time before winter. Peonies and Iris need to be cut back in the fall to prevent overwintering insects and diseases.
  • Some perennials are semi-evergreen. If the foliage on the plant lasted all winter, only remove the dead pieces and leave the remaining growth.
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