Deciduous shrubs are woody plants that drop their leaves in autumn.
Examples of deciduous shrubs are lilac, forsythia, snowball viburnum,
and cranberry cotoneaster. Deciduous shrubs are valued in the landscape
for their foliage, branching characteristics, fall leaf color, flowers
or colored twigs in winter. Some shrubs have colorful fruit that
attracts birds. Selection of deciduous shrubs should be based on
their function in the landscape. Shrubs have different habits of
growth, fast, medium or slow, with upright, wide-spreading, arching
or horizontal branching. The proper selection of the right plant
for height and spread at maturity can reduce the need for pruning.
you start to prune, know what you wish to accomplish. Pruning is
one of the essential but least understood of the garden maintenance
practices. Good pruning is the selective removal of branches without
changing the plant's natural appearance or habit of growth. Shrubs
trimmed to an artificial size or shape require more pruning than
shrubs pruned to keep their natural shape. Prune to improve the
health of the shrub by cutting out dead, diseased, broken and overgrown
branches that interfere with new growth. Prune to control the shrub's
size, shape, flower, fruit and colored twig effect.
methods used to prune a shrub for a specific purpose are thinning-out,
renewal or rejuvenation and heading back or shearing. By thinning
out, a branch or twig is cut off at its point of origin from the
parent stem, to a lateral side branch, to a "Y" of a branch junction
or at the ground level. This method of pruning results in a more
open plant and does not stimulate excessive new growth. Considerable
growth can be cut off without changing the plant's natural appearance
or habit of growth. Plants can be maintained at a given height and
spread for years by thinning out. This method of pruning is best
done with hand pruning shears, not hedge shears. Thinning allows
room for growth of side branches. Thin out the oldest and tallest
renewal pruning, the oldest branches are gradually removed from
an overgrown shrub at the ground level. It is best to do this over
a three-year or longer period, leaving the younger more vigorous
branches. New shoots that develop can be cut back to various lengths
by the thinning method to develop into strong branches.
back or shearing refers to cutting back a branch anywhere along
the length of a stem. The cut may be above a bud, below a bud, or
it may even leave a stub. The effect of heading back or shearing
is to concentrate vigorous upright new growth below the cut. This
method of pruning is frequently done with hedge shears without regard
for the natural form or branching of the plants. If every branch
or twig is headed back, more growth develops than was removed by
the pruning. The natural form of the plant is altered by the extra
growth. Hedges are pruned to a definite size or shape with hedge
leaving stubs when pruning even a small shoot or twig. Short stubs
will not heal over properly and will eventually provide a source
of entry for insects and diseases. Cuts too far above a bud may
destroy the bud by decay or die-back. Cuts too close to the bud
may dry out the bud, especially in winter. The proper pruning cut
should be 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch above the bud, slightly slanted
away from the bud.
ideal time to prune most plants is during the dormant season prior
to the start of new growth. Flowering shrubs may be an exception.
Shrubs that bloom in spring may be pruned after flowering. Late
flowering shrubs that bloom on wood produced the same year can be
pruned before growth starts in the spring.
Some landscape horticulturists believe the effect of the shrub's
structural branching characteristics is more important than its
flowering effect in the total landscape design. Therefore, it may
be better to prune all flowering shrubs in early spring before new
growth starts. Some bloom will be sacrificed by this method. Either
method can be recommended. One has to determine for himself the
time to prune deciduous shrubs.
Pruning shears -- for branches 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter.
Twisting shears to cut larger branches will strain and weaken them.
The anvil-type of pruning shears is satisfactory for general pruning.
However, the scissors or draw-cut type hand shear is preferred for
close-cut precision pruning. Lopping shears -- have long
handles and are designed to cut larger branches 3/4 to 2 inches
in diameter. Pruning saws -- have narrow blades, coarse teeth
and are designed to cut on the pull stroke. Small curved pruning
saws are useful to prune larger shrubs. Hedge shears -- are
used for shearing hedges or formal-shaped plants. Avoid using hedge
shears for other pruning purposes.
from Fred K. Buscher, Ohio State University, 2000