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March Pruning

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Prune plants in March

 

This is a quick pruning guide for Spring! This obviously will vary according to extremes of weather!

Some plants should be left over winter and only pruned in the spring to protect their buds.

Our pruning hints - keep a record of the pruning instructions you sometimes get when you buy plants (on the labels -), or ask friends who've given you cuttings.

if you feel that any of your trees, shrubs or climbers need a bit of care and attention, here are a few notes to use as a pruning guide during March.

 

TREES

Eucalyptus (gum tree)
Eucalyptus gunnii grown for its ornamental juvenile foliage will need pruning now. Cut back all new growth annually on both coppiced and pollarded eucalyptus. Specimen trees that require pruning to maintain the balance of the canopy can also be tackled now. They also respond well to heavy pruning, so if a tree becomes top-heavy it can be cut back, lopped or topped before growth starts in spring.
I love the colour of the leaves on this tree! There was one next to my son's primary school where we used to live! Never had any koala bears in it though! (Manchester not Melbourne!)


Eucryphia
New specimens can be encouraged to produce a well-branched canopy by tipping back the leading shoots at this time of the year. Thereafter, regular pruning is unnecessary. However, it is worth checking for winter damage. Cut back branches that have been damaged by frost and cold weather conditions during the winter months. Prune to a healthy sideshoot lower down. If this unbalances the overall shape, prune other branches to re-establish symmetry to the canopy.

SHRUBS

Abeliophyllum (white forsythia)
Prune after flowering by cutting back one or two of the oldest stems to a vigorous sideshoot near to the base. This will encourage vigorous, free-flowering shoots from low down, helping to keep the shrub neat and compact. Neglected plants that have become a tangled mess and flower poorly, can have one-in-three stems removed each year starting with the oldest. In this way, the whole plant will have been reinvigorated after three years. New wall-trained shrubs should have stems tied into the supports to form a permanent framework. Thereafter, new growth should be cut back annually, after flowering during early spring, to two or three buds from the main framework.

Artemisia (wormwood)
After the worst of the winter frosts have passed in your garden, encourage young plants to produce a compact bushy shape by pruning after planting, cutting all stems back to 5cm (2in). You can keep the plants bushy thereafter by regularly pinching out the shoot tips of new growth. Well-established plants also can be cut back in mid- to late spring to maintain a bushy habit. Cut back all stems to within15cm (6in) of the ground. Specimens left un-pruned should be inspected for winter damage and any frosted or spindly growth removed.

Brachyglottis (Senecio 'Sunshine')
As new growth starts to break and the worst of the winter frosts are over in your garden, encourage a compact bushy shape by pruning back any lax or wayward stems. Also, check the plant for winter damage and remove affected growth. Otherwise, leave any pruning to mid-summer after flowering is over. Old, neglected plants can be cut back hard in spring, but are best replaced with a young vigorous specimen because old plants can be slow to respond to severe pruning.

Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)
New plants should be cut back now to create a short, stubby framework of branches 15-90cm (6-36in) high, depending on how tall you want the shrub to be. Thereafter, you can keep the shrub neat, vigorous and free-flowering by pruning back hard annually during early spring. As new growth starts to break, remove all of the previous year's growth to two or three pairs of buds from the main framework. Old, neglected plants also respond well to cutting back hard at this time of the year.
This shrub can easily get out of control if its in a bit of your garden which suits it!

Ceanothus 'Gloire de Versailles'
Unlike other ceanothus, this deciduous variety should be cut back in early spring to keep the shrub, compact and free flowering. The blue flowers are produced on new growth produced during the current season. During the first few seasons after planting, establish a framework of stubby stems and then, in subsequent years, cut all new growth back to within two or three buds of this framework.

Colutea (bladder senna)
Little or no annual pruning is needed, other than the removal of dead or diseased stems and thinning out congested growth. If space is limited, well-established shrubs can be kept within bounds by either tipping back shoots each spring or cutting back the whole branches to within a few buds of their base. If you find this too drastic, cut out just one stem in three starting with the oldest.

Cotinus (smoke bush)
During the first spring after planting, cut back new growth made the previous season by about one-third to help create a well-branched, rounded shrub. Little pruning is required thereafter, apart from the removal of any misplaced, diseased or crossing branches. However, you can prune to promote different types of growth. For flowers, leave well alone. If you want to encourage spectacular foliage displays, cut all the stems back hard to within two or three buds of the base during early spring. To get both flowers and quality foliage cut out one stem in three each spring, starting with the oldest.

Daphne
No regular pruning is needed with daphnes, other than the removal of stems that have died back. Clean the blade of the secateurs with a suitable disinfectant between cuts to avoid spreading disease. You can also help maintain the neat and compact shape of the daphne by trimming lightly at this time of the year.

Elsholtzia
Top growth will have been killed in colder areas and this simply needs clearing away in spring. In mild gardens, new plants with top growth in tact, should be cut back now to create a short, stubby framework of branches about 10cm (4in) high. Thereafter, you can keep the shrub neat, vigorous and free-flowering by pruning back hard during early spring. As new growth starts to break each spring, remove all of the previous year's growth to two or three pairs of buds from the main framework.

Escallonia rubra, Escallonia 'Iveyi'
During the first few years after planting, prune lightly to encourage bushy growth. Thereafter, no regular pruning is needed, although these escallonias can be kept within bounds by cutting back hard during early spring. Otherwise, simply cut back any shoots that spoil the symmetry of the shrubs.

Forsythia
Do not prune forsythia during the first few years after planting. However, once established, older plants that are left un-pruned become woody at the base where few flowers are produced. To avoid this, prune after flowering has finished, by cutting out one-in-three of the main stems at the base, starting with the oldest. Neglected plants can be rejuvenated by cutting back all flowered shoots to a strong bud near to the base of the shrub. New wall-trained shrubs should have stems tied into the supports to form a permanent framework. Thereafter, new growth should be cut back after flowering during early spring to two or three buds from the main framework. Trim forsythia hedges after flowering too, then leave un-pruned until the following year otherwise you risk removing all of next spring's flowers.

Fothergilla

Little or no annual pruning is needed, other than the removal of dead or diseased stems and thinning out congested growth. Always aim to cut back to a healthy side shoot lower down.

Fuchsia magellanica, Fuchsia fulgens
Hardy fuchsias will have their top growth killed in most areas and this simply needs clearing away in spring - cutting back to near ground level, taking care not to damage emerging new shoots. In mild areas, top growth may survive and so hardy fuchsia can be treated as deciduous shrubs. Simply remove any dead growth and thin out congested stems, or keep within bounds by cutting back main stems to a healthy side shoot lower down.

Griselinia
Little or no annual pruning is needed, other than the removal of dead or diseased stems. Do this in spring. Leave trimming hedges until the summer.

Hamamelis (witch hazel)
Avoid pruning hamamelis unless absolutely necessary because they are very slow growing. However, it is worth pruning to remove dead or diseased stems or to balance the shape of the canopy after flowering is over. Aim to cut back to a healthy side shoot lower down the stem being removed. Also watch out for suckers produced from below the union on grafted plants. These should be removed completely.

Hebe
Hebes grown for their foliage rather than their flowers, such as H cupressoides 'Boughton Dome' and H. 'Red Edge', can be pruned in spring to achieve a compact and neat habit. Neglected plants can be cut back hard since new shoots will be readily produced from near to the base. Hebes grown for their flowers and foliage such as H. pinguifolia 'Pagei', H. albicans, H. brachysiphon and H. rakaiensis, should only pruned to remove frost-damaged, dead or diseased growth. You can also use a pair of shears to trim all hebes over lightly to encourage bushy growth. Variegated hebes that produce all-green shoots, should have these removed completely.

Hydrangea paniculata, Hydrangea arborescens
During the first spring after planting, cut back all new growth to within 5cm (2in) of the old wood. This will encourage these shrubs to form a bushy framework of branches near the base. Once this is achieved, you can get better flowering displays by pruning well-established plants annually. Simply cut back all the previous season's growth to the lowest pair of buds where it joins the main stubby framework of branches. If this is too drastic for you, reduce by about half instead.

Hypericum calycinum (rose of Sharon)
Tough as old boots, rose of Sharon can be chopped off a few centimeters from ground level using shears, nylon-line trimmer or even a hover mower, during early spring. Fresh new growth and plenty of flowers will then be produced. If you find this too drastic, trim to within 15cm (6in) of the ground and trim as necessary through the growing season to maintain a compact shape.
My garndmother used to grow this one and I used to love taking the flowers off and unpeeling them! There were always so many flowers on them too!

Indigofera
Little or no annual pruning is needed, other than the removal of frosted or diseased stems and thinning out congested growth to near ground level. Overly long or wayward shoots can be shortened at the same time. Neglected plants will respond well to hard pruning and so can have all stems cut back to near ground level. If this is too drastic for you, cut out one-in-three stems, starting with the oldest instead.

Jasminum humile
Do not prune Jasminum humile during the first few years after planting. Since it blooms on wood produced the previous season any pruning carried out now will reduce the display this year. However, once established, it still worth pruning to prevent the build up of old, unproductive wood. Every few years, prune out one-in-three stems, starting with the oldest stems.

Lavatera (tree mallow)
In spring after all risk of severe frosts has passed and buds are beginning to break, cut back hard to between 15-30cm (6-12in) of ground level to form a stubby framework. Don't be in a hurry to discard seemingly dead plants after a hard winter because lavateras are renowned for being slow to sprout in spring. Wait until May at the earliest.

Mahonia

New plants can be encouraged to produce a more branching and attractive habit by cutting out the growing tip after flowering. Remove the top rosette of leaves along with the spent flower heads. Established plants of larger varieties can be kept within bounds and flowering well by removing one-in-three stems, starting with the oldest. Low-growing mahonias used as groundcover can be cut back hard each year during late spring. Neglected mahonias also respond to severe pruning at this time of the year.

Melianthus (honey bush)
Melianthus will have their top growth killed in cold areas so this simply needs clearing away in spring. In milder areas, where the top growth remains intact, cut this back during early spring to within two or three buds from the base. Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt to protect hands and arms from the irritant sap.

Rhus typhina (stag's horn sumach)
Little or no annual pruning is needed. However, if you want more spectacular foliage displays and are prepared to miss out on the flowers and fruit, cut all stems back to a stubby framework of branches or to near ground level during mid-spring. Also, wear stout gardening gloves to remove any suckering shoots that arise around the base of the plant. Neglected plants can be renovated by cutting all stems to near ground level, or if this is too drastic for you, remove one-in-three of the oldest stems each year for three years until the whole shrub has been rejuvenated.

Ribes sanguineum, Ribes odoratum (flowering currant)
Flowering currants are best pruned annually to keep them vigorous and free-flowering. Cut back immediately after flowering during mid-spring. Remove one-in-three stems starting with the oldest. Neglected shrubs can be rejuvenated in the same way. Prune specimens grown as hedges immediately after flowering.

Ruta (rue)
Pruning at this time of year will keep the plants compact and the foliage neat and fresh, but at the expense of summer flowers. Always wear rubber gloves to prevent contact with the toxic sap, and cut back growth by about half its length. If you want a floral display, delay pruning until after flowering and cut back the flowered shoots to within 2.5cm (1in) of the old growth. Old, neglected plants also respond well to cutting back hard at this time of the year.

Salix hastata 'Wehrhahnii'
No regular pruning is needed with this ornamental willow, although established plants can become woody and congested if left completely to their own devices. By pruning every other year, removing one-in-three stems, starting with the oldest, you can get attractively coloured young stems as well as older wood that carries the cheery early spring catkins. Prune in mid-spring after the catkins are passed their best.


Salvia officinalis (common sage)
During the first spring after planting, cut back all new growth to within 5cm (2in) of the ground as soon as you can see new shoots emerging from around the base in mid-spring. Established plants can be kept compact and vigorous by cutting back hard during late spring. This will also produce the best foliage displays from purple, golden and variegated varieties.


Skimmia
Skimmias as a rule require little or no regular pruning because they naturally form dense, compact shrubs. However, lopsided growth and wayward shoots can be pruned back after flowering, if necessary. Neglected plants also can be cut back hard in spring, but are probably best replaced with a young, vigorous specimen.


Spartium (Spanish broom)
Encourage new plants to produce bushy habit by cutting back all new growth by about half its length during the first spring after planting. Established shrubs can be kept neat and bushy by cutting back the previous year's growth to within 5cm (2in) of older wood. Do this once every few years. Overgrown shrubs do not respond well to severe pruning so are best replaced.


Spiraea
Spiraeas are a varied group including spring- and summer-flowering forms, some of which flower on new growth produced this year and others that flower on old wood produced in previous seasons. Spiraeas, such as S. douglasii, S. japonica, that flower during the summer on new growth should be pruned now by removing all weak and dead stems. S. douglasii, which is clump-forming, producing lots of shoots from underground, should be pruned by cutting out one-in-three stems, starting with the oldest. The more shrubby species like S. japonica and S. 'Bumalda', on the other hand, should be cut back to a stubby framework of shoots about 10-15cm (4-6in) from the ground. With all these spiraeas, all stems that remain on the plant should be cut back to within three or four buds of the old wood. Late-spring-flowering spiraeas as well as summer-flowering varieties that bloom on old wood should not be pruned until after flowering. Also, spiraea hedges should be pruned annually, by lightly cutting back after flowering to maintain a dense and neat habit.


Symphoricarpos (snowberry)
Encourage new plants to produce thick, bushy growth by cutting back the spring after planting to 30cm (12in). Thereafter, little or no pruning is necessary other than the removal of any misplaced or crossing branches to maintain a permanent, healthy framework. This should be done during early spring. All-green shoots on variegated varieties should be pruned out completely. Wait to trim informal, flowering hedges by cutting back the flowered shoots immediately after flowering to strong buds or young sideshoots lower down. Neglected plants can be renovated by severe pruning - cutting all stems back to near ground level.


Viburnum x bodnantense, Viburnum farreri, Viburnum opulus
Do not prune these deciduous viburnums during the first few years after planting. However, once established, older plants that are left un-pruned become woody at the base where few flowers are produced. To avoid this, prune after flowering has finished, by cutting out one-in-five of the main stems at the base, starting with the oldest. Neglected plants can be renovated by cutting all stems to near ground level, or if this is too drastic for you, remove one-in-three of the oldest stems each year for three years until the whole shrub has been rejuvenated.


Vinca (periwinkle)
To prevent the plant from becoming invasive cut back any unwanted shoots in spring. Use shears or even a nylon-line trimmer to cut back large areas of groundcover vinca.

CLIMBERS and how to prune

Clematis (pruning group 3)
Clematis that flower from July onwards, on growth produced during the current year. There are usually several flowers to each stem. This group includes the C. viticella and C. texensis varieties. All require hard pruning annually to keep under control and flowering well. In the first year after planting, during early to mid-spring, cut back all stems to 30cm above ground level. This will encourage more shoots to be produced from the base for the next year. You may miss some flowering in the first two years, but a much stronger plant will result. In the second year, and in subsequent years, cut back all stems to just above the base of the previous year's growth, about 30cm (12in) above soil level. Pruning to the lowest pair of healthy buds.


Eccremocarpus scaber (Chilean glory flower)
During the first spring after planting, cut back all new growth to 15cm (6in) to encourage new shoots from the base. This tendril climber flowers on new growth, so in subsequent years, cut back all frost-damaged growth and then reduce other stems to about 60cm. The new climbing stems will carry the colourful trumpet flowers.


Hedera (ivy)
Prune ivies if necessary, during early spring before new growth starts, to keep within bounds and to tidy appearance. Cut back wayward shoots to just above a bud lower down the stem. Remove overcrowded shoots entirely. Keep wall-grown ivies neat by removing shoots growing away from the support. Ivies respond well to severe pruning so old, neglected plants can be reinvigorated by hard pruning - cutting back to within 50cm of the base.


Hibbertia
During the first spring after planting, pinch out the growing tips of each main stem to encourage new breaks to be produced from further down. Thereafter, little or no pruning is required, other than the removal of dead, damaged or congested stems.


Humulus (hop)
Young plants do not need any formative pruning and established plants can be left to their own devices, apart from clearing away frost-killed stems during spring. Simply, cut back all of last year's shoots to near ground level. Tie-in any twining new shoots around the base of the support.


Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine)
Winter jasmine should be pruned after flowering during early spring. Aim to create a framework of well-spaced branches over the support. Once well-established, cut back shoots not needed to extend the framework to two or three buds of their base. Winter jasmine tolerates hard pruning so neglected plants can be reinvigorated by cutting back to within about 50cm of the base.


Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Once the honeysuckle has reached the top of its support, tip-back the shoots to encourage flowering sideshoots to develop. Well-established plants can become over-congested if left unpruned, so thin out the main stems every few years by cutting back to a newer sideshoot lower down. Neglected plants can become a top-heavy mass of twining stems if not pruned regularly - with flowers out of sight on the top. Give it a short-back-and-sides, then reduce the number of main stems removing any awkwardly placed or crossing stems first. If you want a complete clear-out, honeysuckles do respond well to hard pruning to within 30cm of the ground, but you will have a big gap and reduced display for a few years. This is best done in winter, but it's not too late now.


Lonicera henryi
During the first spring after planting, cut back the main stems by about half their length to encourage strong new sideshoots near the base. Cut back established plants after flowering, removing one-third of the flowering shoots. Overgrown and neglected specimens can be chopped back to within 60cm (24in) of the ground to regain control. Tie in the strongest and best-placed new shoots and cut out the remainder.


Solanum (potato vine)
Established plants should be pruned each year during early spring to thin out overcrowded growth and restrict the size of the climber. Aim to create a framework of well-spaced branches over the support. Once well-established, cut back shoots not needed to extend the framework to two or three buds of their base. Neglected plants can be tricky to rejuvenate because they do not respond to severe pruning. Instead, cut out one-in-three stems from the framework, starting with the oldest, every other year. Ideally cut back to a newer sideshoot lower down, or cut right back to the base if no suitable shoots exist.

 



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