Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Pruning and caring for flowering shrubs.

This year in the Midwest our spring was delayed with cold weather and rain extending into the end of April and beginning of May. This resulted in everything that blooms in the spring to all bloom at the same time. This was a nightmare for those of us who have seasonal allergies, but it was a beautiful sight!

Now the bloom is all but over and many of these plants will need attention, mostly pruning. Trees and shrubs that do not flower can be pruned early in spring, but flowering ones need to be pruned after blooming. 

Pruning is mainly to promote shape and good health. Remove any dead branches at the ground. Make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle. Prune any branches growing sideways rubbing on good growth. Cut again on the diagonal a ¼ inch above a bud. Distance is important. Too far away from the bud can encourage fungus. Too close to the bud can dry it out. Choose a bud that lies in the direction you wish the growth to go. 

If your bush or shrub is particularly overgrown, you can remove up to 1/3 of the branches. Target older wood that has little foliage near the center first, cutting branches at the ground. Cut any dead branches at the next joint. Older bushes can be rejuvenated removing a third of the growth each year for three years. Removing the oldest branches will bring sunlight into the center of the plant. Pruning the old wood at the base will encourage new growth. 

Established shrubs should not need watering unless it is a very dry summer. If so, do a slow trickle with the hose for a few hours. Most shrubs need only a little fertilizer, but check online for your shrub’s particular needs. Flowering shrubs as a rule prefer more phosphorus for flowering, as opposed to nitrogen which encourages foliage. Shrubs can use a good couple inches of mulch to keep the soil moist and retain water. Leave space around the base of the plant and the mulch to discourage fungus and other diseases. 

With a little care we can all enjoy these beautiful flowering bushes for years to come.  

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago