Fellow gardeners, we stand on the verge of apocalypse. With the end of the college football season, thousands of men steaming with pent-up testosterone and overpowering boredom are about to pick up saws and pruners and lay waste to your landscape. It just feels good to cut something.
However, if you can possibly slip a Valium into hubby’s oatmeal before he reaches the garage, do so. Then read the following guidelines to see which shrubs can be pruned in winter and which ones can’t. My next pruning post will deal with trees.
Abelia — This blooms pretty much continuously on new growth from spring to fall, so it’s OK to prune it now.
‘Annabelle’ hydrangea — Blooms on new growth. Can cut it back now as far as you want. Cutting it severely will produce much larger, but fewer blooms.
Angel’s trumpet — Blooms on new growth. Can cut it back now as far as you want.
Azailyers (aka Azaleas) — Don’t prune now or you’ll cut off the spring flowers. Prune them back immediately after they finish flowering in spring.
Beautyberry — Blooms on new growth, so cut it back now as low as a foot tall if you want.
Butterfly bush — Same advice as for beautyberry.
Boxwood — OK to prune now. Plants sheared into tight balls are prone to disease because of stress and poor air circulation. To prevent this, use hand pruners to thin out out the foliage and let light and air better reach the center. Always cut back to a leaf, bud, or twig. While you’re at it, clean out any leaves and other debris that have gathered in the shrub’s center.
Cape plumbago — OK to prune now.
Chinese hibiscus — Can prune it just about any time.
Climbing roses — Don’t prune now (except to remove dead stuff), because if yours is a kind that blooms only in spring (like Lady Banks or rambling types), you’ll cut off all the flowers. Play it safe by pruning after the main spring bloom.
Common cameelyers (aka Camellias). Don’t prune now or you won’t get any flowers. Prune in late spring or early summer. Camellias need little pruning, so take it easy.
Confederate rose — OK to prune now. Cut it back as far as you want.
Daphne — Hardly ever needs pruning, but if you feel compelled, do so in late spring after blooming.
Forsythia — Don’t prune now or you’ll cut off all the spring blooms. Wait until after it finishes flowering in spring.
French hydrangeas (them bushes with blue or pink flowers) — When to prune depends on whether you have a once-bloomer (like ‘Nikko Blue’) or a repeat-bloomer, like ‘Endless Summer.’ Once-bloomers bloom on last year’s growth, so if you prune them now, you won’t get any flowers. Do any necessary pruning (which isn’t much) next summer just as the flowers begin to fade. Repeat-bloomers bloom on both last year’s and this year’s growth, so you can prune them now and they’ll still bloom.
Gardenia — It’s too late to prune now and get a decent bloom in June. Wait until just after it finishes blooming in summer.
Holly (evergreen) — OK to prune now and just about any time.
Indian hawthorn — Wait to prune until after it finishes blooming in spring.
Japanese yew — OK to prune now.
Juniper — OK to prune now.
‘Knockout rose’ — Grumpy knows this will come as a shock, but this “no-care” rose needs annual pruning. Prune it now to reduce its size and encourage new growth and flowers in spring.
Lilac — Prune after it finishes blooming in spring. To rejuvenate an old, gnarly shrub that doesn’t bloom well, cut off old, woody trunks at the ground to encourage new growth.
Loropetalum — OK to prune now if you don’t care about spring flowers. If you do, prune after it blooms in spring.
Mockorange — Wait until it finishes blooming in spring.
Nandina — Older nandina types get leggy and sparse at the bottom. Prune now or in spring. Cut back trunks to different heights, cutting just above a tuft of foliage.
Oleander — Don’t prune now. Wait until immediately after it finishes blooming in spring or summer.
Photinia (red tip) — Cut it down and throw it away. Any time is fine.
Privet — Cut it down and cast it into the fires of Mt. Doom. Middle Earth will thank you.
Podocarpus — OK to prune now.
Rose-of-Sharon — Blooms on new growth, so prune it now or in early spring.
Spirea — Prune summer-bloomers now or in spring. Prune spring-bloomers soon after they finish blooming.
Weigela — Prune the same as for forsythia.
Grumpy’s Next Post
“Grumpy’s Winter Pruning Guide — Part 2.” Pruning trees.