Which plants are in need of a haircut?

Pruning is sometimes a bit of a grey area in gardening; what can I prune, how hard can I prune it and when is the best time prune?

So let’s have a look at a few common garden plants that appreciate a “haircut” at this time of year

With us approaching spring, now is an ideal time for a range of shrubs to be pruned as the sap is starting to rise and if you are planning a hard prune then now is also the time!

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Any winter flowering shrubs such as Witch Hazels (Hamemelis) and winter flowering Honeysuckles all appreciate a trim after flowering (remove a third of the top branches), this then causes the new shoots to come from lower down on the plant rather than from the ends, encouraging a bushier plant.

Also early spring flowering plants like the flowering Currants (Ribes) and the well-known Forsythias appreciate a prune after flowering to encourage similar growth from low down. You can prune these harder and remove two-thirds of the flowered growth.

Dogwoods (Cornus) appreciate a prune back down to one foot and watch them explode with new growth in spring – it will be strong and colourful coming from the base. Do this every other year so you don’t miss out on the colourful display.

Some summer flowering shrubs, like Spiraeas and Potentillas, appreciate a hard prune as well. Prune them now back down to six inches from the ground; with the Spiraeas you will get strong new colourful shoots topped with flowers, and this will also help keep your Potentillas bushier and flowering for longer. On older Potentilla bushes you have to be a little gentler, more down to 18in.

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Elderberries (Sambucus) appreciate a hard prune every other year. Like the Dogwoods they will shoot straight out of the trunk and this will help make a bushier plant again. Smoke bushes (Cotinus) can tolerate a hard prune as after time they can get a bit top heavy. Prune straight away now down to two feet from the ground.

Another plant well known for tolerating a hard pruning is the Buddlejas, however leave these until the end of April as the late frosts can sometimes damage the new young shoots if done too early.

With evergreen shrubs you are more limited to pruning little and often, plants like Aucubas and Rhododendrons don’t appreciate being pruned too hard as their ability to reshoot is limited.

You must remember one thing – when pruning shrubs they are going to need a good square meal to help pep them back up and encourage strong new growth. Top dress with a good pellet-based shrubs fertilizer; Vitax Q4 is good across the board as it can be used on perennials and Alpines as well. Apply it just before a rain at the start of March. Well that’s all for now and let’s hope it’s a bit more spring like in a couple of weeks!