Spring is a good time to prune many types of shrubs, especially the deciduous ones, or the ones that lose their leaves every fall. Just before growth begins is the very best time to prune. Without all those leaves on the shrub, it’s easy to observe the structure of the plant and it’s easier to determine which branches to thin. Almost any deciduous shrub can be pruned in the early spring. However, if your plant is most valued for its show of blossoms, and those blossoms are a showy spring thing, you may want to wait until after the spring show to prune this first time. Over pruning can do a lot of damage that can takes years to remedy, so it is a lot better to go slow and easy. A good rule of thumb is to not remove more than a fifth to a third of the plant in any one year. Some shrubs have many branches and stems coming up from the ground, such as bridal wreath and lilacs, flowering quince, flowering almond, and shrubs similar to these. When pruning these types of plants, it is best to cut the unwanted branches off at ground level rather than up on the branch somewhere. This keeps the plant airy and open, which is healthier for it, and also encourages strong new growth from the roots. If you just prune back the outer edge of all the branches, new vigorous growth comes out just below the cut, and over time this thick growth can cut off the light and air to the center of the shrub. To remove the branches at the ground level, first make a cut about a third of the way up the branch from the ground and remove that part of the branch from the top of the shrub- it will be easier to get out than trying to snake it down through all the other growth to take it out at the bottom. After you have taken the top two thirds, make another cut at ground level and take the rest of the branch from the bottom. Pruning this way also maintains the natural shape and beauty of your shrub, and encourages more abundant bloom in upcoming seasons. However, be careful not to take more than a fifth to a third of the plant in any one year, and be sure to take the oldest, tallest and darkest branches.
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