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April 2012

QuestionWhen to prune.


AnswerIt has been a gorgeous, albeit early spring this year in Arkansas. Many early spring blooming plants are finished blooming and beginning to put on new growth. Now is the time to prune them if needed. Remember that before you grab your pruning shears, you need to answer three questions, why am I pruning, when should I prune and how should the plant be pruned. Some plants require annual pruning, while others may never need to be pruned. Plants that bloom in the spring should be pruned as soon after flowering as possible to allow plenty of recovery time before they start setting flower buds in the late summer/early fall. You have until mid June to get it done, but the sooner, the better in my opinion. Forsythia is a cane producing plant. What that means, is that it doesn’t have a dominant trunk, but multiple trunks or canes. To prune it properly you should remove up to 1/3 of the older canes right at the soil line every year after bloom. This will encourage new vigorous canes to grow, giving you the living fountain look and plenty of flowers next spring. If your azaleas are too large and need to be pruned, do so when they finish flowering. Azaleas do have a dominant trunk, so we do selective thinning when pruning them. Many folks make the pruning job easier and use electric hedge trimmers and create all these meatballs in the landscape. When that is done, the end results aren’t as pleasing. When pruned at the exact point on each plant, all new growth will be on the edges, as will all the flowers. If you can, selectively thin at staggering heights throughout the bushes. This will give you a more full, natural look and more flowers next spring.

April 2010

QuestionI hope you can help me with this problem. I have several very old azaleas. They are over 50 years old and probably eight feet tall. I know they should have been trimmed long ago, but they have been so beautiful. Now, however, there are a lot of dead looking limbs underneath the leaves. The green leaves form a canopy over the dead limbs. My questions are should I trim them and if so, how far back? When should I trim and should I fertilize? They still bloom well and should bloom sometime in April.


AnswerThere is absolutely nothing wrong with old azaleas being eight feet tall--if there is room for them to grow that large and it isn't covering up a window. If you have ever been to Callaway Gardens in Georgia, they are much larger than that and absolutely spectacular in bloom, so don't beat yourself up about not having pruned them. If the plants are having issues now, then pruning this year may be called for. Allow the plants to finish blooming before you start pruning. Then do selective thinning of branches, removing any dead wood and then deciding on where new growth needs to go. Pruning can help get the bushes full again and can direct growth in areas that you need it. Try not to remove more than one third of the plant, but follow up with azalea fertilizer and water as needed to aid in recovery.


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