If you're looking to maximize your curb appeal it's time to look at your shrubs and bushes. Even the most presidential houses know it's all about the shrubs!
However, unkempt bushes transform a once pristine yard into a neglected green space. With a quick prune, your yard will be looking crisp and your shrubbery healthy. Just by keeping up with your shrubs and bushes, you'll maintain that manicured look and keep the neighbors jealous.
There are a couple of special circumstances that should be tackled immediately!
Notice a dead or diseased branch? There is no time like the present to hack that baby off. Leaving those branches can lead to spreading the disease or attracting insects to make more of a disaster.
Additionally, some unusual growth can jeopardize the health of the shrub. Don't wait to remove crossing branches, suckers (vigorous vertical growth coming from the roots or lower main stem of a plant), or water sprouts (thin shoots that arise from the trunk or branches).
Other than those immediate cases, each shrub has a specific time it likes to be pruned.
If your flowering shrub blooms in the spring, wait to prune until after it blooms. However, if it won't bloom until summer, you'll want to prune that flowering shrub in the late-winter/early spring. Non-flowering shrubs, such as burning bushes, can be cut back at any time except late fall. For significant pruning of these foliage beauties, wait until the dormant winter to make major cuts.
After you've done your due diligence in pruning, you can continue to keep up with light trimming throughout the year.
If you still have questions about a specific plant, see if you can find it on this indispensible list.
Know the basic hand tools in your artillery: hand pruners, shears, and loppers.
Pruners can typically cut up to ¾ inch on soft, green wood or ½ inch on older, harder wood. Choose one that fits comfortably in your grasp without opening too wide. And if you're a lefty, they make pruners just for you!
Shears are best for plants with thin branches (1/4 inch or less in diameter). While bigger shears are best for large shrubs, a smaller set will be handier in precision cutting.
Loppers are the perfect tools for overhead and heavy-duty branches (up to 2 ½ inches in diameter). Their strong cut, however, is accompanied by some significant weight so use them wisely. The best loppers are gear-driven which mechanically increases cutting power while reducing fatigue.
If you need to buy any of these tools new this year, keep these pointers in mind:
- Teflon coated blades will keep your blades sharper and the work easier by overcoming friction.
- Aluminum handles will keep your tool durable, light, and comfortable compared to the wood or iron counterparts.
- Ratcheting action with gear-driven designs are mechanically smarter to exert more force than you put in.
- High-carbon-steel-blades will give you the most bang for your buck with their strength and durability for the long haul.
Check out these handy tips for making the most of your pruning:
Do yourself a favor and don't begin until you've laid down a tarp underneath your shrub for easy clean up.
If you haven't already, remove any dead, diseased, or crossing limbs to give yourself a better idea of what you're working with. If the branch was diseased, remove with a sterilized blade to prevent the spread of disease. Use bleach or wood alcohol to disinfect the blade between cuts.
Avoid making the top wider than the base. Having a thinner top will allow for more sunlight to reach the bottom branches to promote health and growth.
Do not cut more than 1/3 of the healthy wood each year! Since pruning helps to stimulate growth and maintain a balance within the shrub, cutting too much in a single session can throw it into panic mode.
Always make an angled cut just above and sloping away from a leaf or bud. Getting too close to the bud will damage it leaving the bud to dry out and die…and you'll be left with an unappealing stub. Alternatively, cutting too far above the bud will also result in the eventual demise of the branch that will ultimately rot away or invite insects/disease.
When cutting, create the general shape by removing the unwanted growth. Remember to keep the natural shape in mind; otherwise straying too much from its natural growth will create headaches as you battle with your defiant bush or possibly endanger it by cutting too much.
The new growth fostered by pruning will centralize near the cut. To promote healthier growth, trace the branch back into the bush to the previous branch and cut just above the closest bud. Not only will that branch continue to grow, but you've now shared the love with the mother branch.
Beyond the reshaping of the shrub, make sure you are thinning out thick outer coverings to allow air and light to reach the inside branches as well.
Ready?! We can't wait to see your before and after pictures! Share your project with us on Twitter or Instagram! Happy Pruning!