By Marianne Binetti
Getting snippy with your plants this spring can improve their shapes, increase their blooms—or cause sudden death. Here are some tips to consider before you sharpen those shears:
- Prune tender plants after you see signs of new growth. This means early spring is not the time to tidy up marginally hardy shrubs such as hardy fuchsia or hibiscus. Leave alone the more tender members of the salvia family, such as ‘Hot Lips’, until at least May.
- Pruning Pee Gee hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) now means sacrificing summer flowers. These hydrangeas are best pruned in late winter or very early spring, while they still are dormant.
- Wait for rhododendrons and azaleas until they flower. This avoids stimulating fresh green foliage too early in the season. Pruning after blooming is the rule of green thumb for this family of plants.
- Prune spireas, roses, barberries, and other hardy shrubs now by shortening branches that are wild and out of control.
- Remove the old foliage of heuchera, hellebores, and other perennials. This not only tidies up the garden beds but also helps cut back on overwintering disease spores.
TIP: I like to prune my perennials right before I apply a fresh layer of new mulch. This way I can do the “chop and drop” and leave the pruning crumbs right where they fall. Covering the bits and pieces with a few inches of compost or mulch helps return those pruning leftovers back to the soil to provide nutrients for the plants. I haul away old rose canes and any plant parts that could be diseased or harbor slugs.
Confused? It is always safe to prune away the three D’s: anything that is dead, damaged, or diseased. On evergreen shrubs snip off winter damage that shows up as brown leaves on the most exposed part of the shrub. This encourages fresh spring growth.
Now get out there and get snippy.