I earned a Master Gardener Certification from the University of Illinois. It is a great program and has educated me in so many ways. I decided to start a Master Gardener Series and share with you some of my garden knowledge on pruning shrubs.
Today’s Master Gardener Series: Pruning Shrubs
Today I headed out in my garden to prune back some of my shrubs from winter die back. Winter dye back simply means woody stems (another post) that due to winter damage (cold, snow, thaw and freeze, or plant isn’t zone hardy enough) did not survive.
This is one of my climbing rose bushes. The South wall is the only section in my garden that gets full sun and is completely covered with a white trellis. This is where I grow many different climbers, roses, tomatoes (yes there are climbing tomato plants), porcelain berry vine and morning glories.
This red rose bush typically dies back over winter and the best time to prune it is in fall. Due to my surgery last year I couldn’t.
In the photo you can see new growth sprouting up so I’ll be pruning back to just above this point (12″ high)
But, you may not want to do a hard pruning back to ground level….often a branch’s color is a sign it’s alive or not, but not always. The dark parts on a branch, like this one, can be a clue.
Before pruning look for tiny buds at each “branch” point (white arrow). If there is a “bud” at a branch point I know everything below on the “main” trunk is alive. Side branches like the one in back or others may not be.
If I don’t see any buds then I would start making cuts down to the next branch junction (white arrows in photo above this one.
After each pruning look at the remaining branch cut and look for green. This cut shows no green…and hopefully you can see that.
Keep cutting to the next branch junction until you see green like above.
A close-up, the green signifies “nourishment” is traveling to the branches. You can also see the cut shows “healthier” looking wood.
Also keep in mind which “direction” you want your new branch to grow! Each nodule (white arrows) shows the direction of the new branch. The top arrow shows the branch will grow to the right and downward, and the bottom branch will grow to the left and upward.
You might ask why do I care which direction the branch grows? First, we wouldn’t want future branches to cross or “brush” up against another branch. Maybe the branch will grow towards your house….you don’t want a branch to grow in that direction. So decide the branch direction that fits best in your garden and trim down until you reach the nodule that faces this direction, and shows green!
I made hard cuts down to the branch showing it will grow up and right.
I cut the rose bush back to the new growth approximately 12″ above ground.
A Endless Summer Hydrangea has a lot of die back also, and I used the same technique.
Endless Summer is suppose to grow on new and old wood (another post), but I have found here in IL they do not do well. This hydrangea was pruned down to about 5″ above ground. Parts of the center was also dead and removed.
You can use this method on any shrub and tree. You can hard prune a shrub back to rejuvenate (future post) it. But trees are sensitive to pruning. You can comfortably prune back all dead from a tree, but NEVER remove more than 10% from a tree. It causes great stress and can kill it.
I hope you enjoyed learning how to prune shrubs to help turn you in to a Master Gardener!