by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener & gardening writer living in Hampton Roads, VA
Oh, happy days – Spring is only 20 days away!
Which means it’s time to assess and prep – and prune -- your plants for another season of beauty.
If the word “prune” strikes fear in your heart, take comfort in the fact that pruning promotes good health in plants – but only when pruning is done at the right time and in the right way.
“Crape murder” is probably the most recognizable form of bad pruning, especially in landscaped areas at shopping centers and other commercial sites. In reality, crape myrtles need minor pruning, removing only crossing, rubbing and diseased branches to create a plant that gets good sunlight and air circulation. Crape murder is often used to control the size of a large plant put in a small space – another bad landscaping practice.
In my yard, pruning is practical and easy.
For shrub roses like Knock Outs, I use a pair of sharp shears to cut the plants back to about 8 to 12 inches above ground – no need to do interior pruning. Shrub roses can also be pruned during the growing season but keep it to a minimum.
My wax myrtle privacy hedge is also cut back – top and sides.
Camellias are pruned immediately after they finish flowering – remove interior branches so air and light penetrate the plant to help reduce disease and pest problems.
Deciduous shade trees are pruned for shape only and I try to do this when the trees are young and as they grow.
The dead foliage on groundcovers like liriope are best pruned by March when new growth begins to peek through the soil.
Some species like azaleas, need to wait until finish flowering or you cut off this year’s flower buds.
You can find many helpful gardening, including pruning, publications through Virginia Cooperative Extension at https://pubs.ext.vt.edu. Your plants will thank you for taking the extra effort to learn how to prune them properly.