Rejuvenation Pruning Ideas for Overgrown Shrubs

The gentle days of winter provide gardeners a possibility to are inclined to duties which can be greatest finished when the panorama is dormant. A type of duties is the rejuvenation or renovation pruning of shrubs. The sort of work just isn’t for the timid, as it’s somewhat aggressive. The aim of this activity is to take an overgrown or poorly fashioned plant and selectively take away a considerable quantity of its construction to encourage a renewal of wholesome progress within the spring. All pruning encourages new progress; rejuvenation pruning ends in strong progress. When correctly executed, shrubs may be given new life and hold their pure kind even when shrunk. Quite a lot of species lend themselves to this system, and I’ve labored on many viburnums (Viburnum spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), lilacs (Syringa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8), mock orange shrubs (Philadelphus coronarius, Zones 4–8), and burning bushes (Euonymus alatus, Zones 4–8).

Why prune throughout the dormant season

Winter pruning is useful, as most shrubs are naked or have lowered leaves, making the general construction of a shrub in addition to any points with progress simply seen. Every of those points wants consideration, with choices made as to how greatest to right the issue. This isn’t the time for concern about saving spring-flowering buds, or about whether or not a plant is blooming on new or previous wooden. We have to be centered on rejuvenating the shrub and be ready for fewer flowers the primary season after this work.

close up of crossing branches on a shrub
Crossing branches will rub and create a wound in your shrub. Certainly one of them must be eliminated.

To get began, search for these points in your shrub

First, collect your instruments, which ought to encompass pair of hand pruners and no less than one pair of loppers, all sharpened. When you have very massive limbs, a pruning noticed could also be obligatory. Take a step again and take a look at the general kind and measurement of the shrub. Contemplate how the shrub seems in comparison with the species commonplace and the way nicely this shrub matches within the house the place it’s rising—basically, is that this plant performing the way in which you need it to? I name this the “massive image” evaluation. You also needs to search for any problematic progress. This contains:

  • Crossing or rubbing branches
  • Misshapen, distorted, or misdirected branches
  • Suckers
  • Useless or broken branches

If that is the primary rejuvenation pruning to your shrub, you’ll absolutely discover that a whole lot of work must be finished.

Burkwood viburnum before rejuvenation pruning
Earlier than pruning, this Burkwood viburnum had a dense branching construction that was encroaching on close by boxwoods (Buxus cv., Zones 4–9).

Instance: Pruning an overgrown Burkwood viburnum

The Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum × burkwoodii, Zones 4–8) in my backyard had overgrown its spot by the patio. I’ve made some extent of giving it clip to maintain it in bounds after it blooms every spring, however that has simply not been sufficient, and it was time for extra intensive work. I began the pruning course of slowly by bringing within the sides the place branches encroach on a path or different plant, pruning again to a bud heading within the course I need the brand new progress to go. (Cuts ought to be made at totally different ranges alongside the department in order that new progress is staggered throughout the shrub.) I then thinned out clusters of twigs so there could be extra air and light-weight reaching the middle of the shrub, encouraging inside progress and a wholesome atmosphere.

leaves stuck to jacket
Be certain to not put on a jacket or shirt with clinging material that can maintain on to leaves or twigs.

Branches rising backward into the middle of the plant had been subsequent: I eliminated or pruned them to redirect them to move to the surface. Working with this semi-evergreen plant disturbed the leaves, which fell and made the branches extra seen. (Put on a clean jacket otherwise you danger the leaves sticking to you.) I then in the reduction of new progress to encourage branching and pruned previous progress to cut back peak and pressure new progress at decrease ranges.

Burkwood viburnum with pruning almost done
When the pruning course of is completed, the shrub has a way more open behavior and can develop vigorously as soon as spring begins.

After I was lastly completed, there was a whole lot of air and room to develop the place a mass of branches had stood solely an hour earlier. It could appear like a brutal assault, however by midsummer this Burkwood viburnum can be lush with new progress on account of one afternoon’s efforts. This method has sacrificed most of the blooms for this spring, however it will likely be value it in future seasons. As I inform my shocked purchasers, I’ve finished this earlier than and the shrubs all the time come again higher than they had been.

close up of branch cut
Reducing simply above dormant secondary buds will make them major buds come spring.

For extra recommendations on pruning shrubs, take a look at Tremendous Gardening‘s pruning undertaking information. And for extra Northern Plains regional stories, click on right here.


—Marti Neely, FAPLD, owns and operates Marti Neely Design and Associates in Omaha, Nebraska.

Photographs: Marti Neely

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