Whether you are an avid gardener who enjoys the art of landscaping or, if you enjoy more of a rustic gardening style, it is vital to understand how to care for your plants and trees.
Part of this includes pruning, something that should occur as part of keeping a healthy garden at least once a year. “Pruning contributes to producing more flowers, fruit and generally healthier looking plants and trees. It could be daunting for first time gardeners as the question will always be how much is too much”, says Business Manager for Garden Master: Chané Hendricks. “Don’t be afraid of cutting away all damaged, dead and dying branches as before long, you’ll see new growth as plants extend their root systems and store food in them to support growing branches during growing season.” There are, however, a couple of things you should know before getting out your pruners, such as when to prune, how to prune and why you should prune.
- Understand the make-up of your garden. Different trees and shrubs flower during different times of the year and pruning at the wrong time could hinder your plants from growing and flowering.
- Prune during winter when trees become dormant. This makes it easier to inspect the branches of trees for signs of disease and insects where the leaves would usually be in the way. It is also much easier to assess the direction in which the branches are growing as this allows you to determine where they need thinning. The fresh wounds made by pruning will also not attract as many insects or diseases that are more prevalent in spring. Regrowth will also be faster in the warmer seasons.
- Have the correct tools and to ensure you oil your blades for the best results. Blunt and old tools can actually damage and delay plant growth as they will tear and damage branches. When choosing a pruning shear, consider your hand size and shape, the grip strength, and the type and amount of pruning you need to do. There are two basic types of pruners, bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Bypass pruners (best for live plants) deliver a clean cut from two curved blades just like a pair of scissors would, while anvil pruners (best for dead wood) have one straight blade that cuts as it closes onto a flat edge.
When to prune different groups
- Evergreen shrubs: There are no set rules for when to prune but with deciduous flowering shrubs, it is important to prune according to their time of flowering. You can remove the flowering wood if you prune it at the wrong time of the year, which will make it impossible for the shrub to carry blossoms at its flowering time.
- Flowers in summer: These shrubs can be cut back in late July to promote new growth in early summer. Examples include Chinese plumbago (Ceratostigma willmottianum), Potentilla fruticose and St John’s wort (Hypericum spp.).
- Flowers in late winter and early spring: Prune these shrubs in late October, this will allow for new growth during summer. Examples: Chinese Bush Cherry, flowering quince and Japanese Rose.
- Hydrangeas: Hydrangeas should be pruned twice a year, in winter (end July) and summer (end January). During July, you will prune more than in January where you will merely be removing old flowers and stems.
- Roses: Roses should not be pruned before mid-July in most regions of South Africa. Pruning late in July and early August is perfectly agreeable to the rose and delaying the pruning even further will result in the roses flowering later in October.
“This year, don’t hesitate to get your pruning done. While it will look a bit empty for the first week or so, the rewards will be significant,” concludes Hendricks.
Source and images: Grey for Garden Master