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Questions and Answers about Hedges and Shrubs

Question:
I have some 2-year-old Leyland Cypress that need pruning, any suggestions?

Answer:
This variety of Cypress rarely needs pruning. Its natural shape includes random, ragged branches. You can prune it to keep it as a hedge, but even with this you only need to prune to control the height.

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Question:
I need to prune my Black Currant bushes. How do I know how old the branches are and how do I go ahead?

Answer:
On Black Currant bushes, the branches with the darker wood are the older branches. Black Currant bushes produce the most fruit on new growth from the previous year. A small amount of fruit will develop on second- and third-year branches. In late fall, cut back all shoots that are older than three years. This gives you an adequate supply of one-year-old wood, and it also stimulates new growth in the following season. While pruning your Black Currant bush also remove the smaller, weaker branches. The thicker your branches are at the point where they attach to the trunk, the more likely they are to withstand the weight of winter conditions. Annual pruning increases the amount of fruit you will get and keeps plants manageable. Regular pruning will maintain a continuous supply of new wood, help the bush keep a bushy shape and also encourages the production of large fruits.

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Question:
How and when do we go about pruning Hollywood Cypress? We have four, and they are starting to get too close to the house.

Answer:
You can reshape your Cypresses to fit into your landscaping by shortening the branches back to either to a lateral branch or a point where leaves persist. Keep in mind that when pruning your Cypresses, they will be slow to begin new growth. Generally, Cypress trees do not need much pruning, other than to remove competing lead branches in early to mid-spring. Always remove dead and diseased branches as soon as you notice them. Once the trees have reached the size you want, do regular pruning to maintain that size instead of letting them get overgrown.

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Question:
How can I prune Penstemons so that they grow upright and not become a groundcover?

Answer:
The best way to encourage your Penstemon shrub to grow with an upright habit is to cut it back each year. In early spring, prune back hard stems with winter damage. After the shrub has flowered, shorten the flowered stems by half. This will prevent seed production but will encourage further flowering.

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Question:
How hard can you cut back a privet hedge?

Answer:
Privet hedges that need to be rejuvenated due to overgrowth or bare sections at the bottom can be cut back very hard. A privet should rebound quickly if you cut it back to within two or three inches of the ground.

Keep in mind that cutting it back so hard will destroy the privet's screening ability. You may choose to rejuvenate the hedge over a three-year period, cutting back one-third of the stems to the ground each year.

Whichever method you choose, remember the hedge will not look very good while it is being rejuvenated. With two years of hard pruning and then three to four years of gradual rejuvenation, it will look better than it did before you started.

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Question:
When is the proper time to prune a Hemlock?

Answer:
Hemlocks should be pruned before growth begins in late winter/early spring. Pruning may also be repeated in midsummer if it is necessary to retain the shape you wish.

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Question:
How long does it take to grow honeysuckles? How should they be pruned?

Answer:
It's really hard to say how long it would take to grow a honeysuckle. It all depends on the condition of the seedling, the weather and care it receives. Under normal circumstances and with proper maintenance, keeping your honeysuckle from becoming overgrown is more of a problem than having it die.

Whether you have a honeysuckle vine or shrub, prune regularly to remove any dead wood, and thin overgrowth to maintain shape and let the sun reach all of the branches.

If you have an older honeysuckle that is totally overgrown, twiggy and in poor health, start a three-year pruning project. Cut back a third of the old stems to the ground each year until all that you have left is new young growth that grows out of the base. This is much easier on the plant than removing all of the old stems at once. You will be able to tell which are the old stems because they are thick and have shaggy, rough bark. The new branches that emerge are thin and smooth.

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Question:
I have a young Baptisa Austrailis blue false indigo shrub. It is only about 1 1/2 feet high and hasn't bloomed yet. Should I prune it?

Answer:
The blue false indigo shrub is a very slow-growing variety. Prune the shrub in the early spring by cutting back the stems to just above ground level. Remove any dead or weak stems. Maintaining this type of pruning while it is young will help the shrub grow bushier.

If your shrub is not strong enough to support itself, stake it - especially if it is not in full sun. It is not unusual for a new shrub to lack blossoms during its first few years. Regular pruning will encourage new growth, and better the chances of blossoms.

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Question:
Is there a weed killer I can use that will not harm an Ixora hedge? Also, what type of fertilizer will help get more flowers?

Answer:
The safest method to remove the weeds is to dig them up or pull up the weeds and their root systems. To reduce the number of weeds around your hedge, you need to keep a thick layer of mulch around the base of the hedges. This will prevent the weeds from getting sunlight and nutrients. You need to apply fertilizer to your hedges in early spring, mid-summer, and late summer. Use an acid fertilizer such as 4-8-8 and look for the addition of minor elements made especially for Gardenia and Ixora.

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Question:
I have Rhododendrons that flowered several months ago; the flowers died, dried up and are now hanging on. I would like to know what and when I should do to them.

Answer:
If your Rhododendrons are done blooming, you can go ahead and pick off the dried flowers. For more information about deadheading, check out our article on the topic. http://www.orchardsedge.com/deadheading.html

Rhododendrons usually require little pruning, although most can tolerate being cut back hard. You do need to remove suckers, dead wood and any damaged or diseased wood. Older plants can become congested and may suffer dieback if enough light does not reach the center of the plant. The best time to prune your Rhododendrons is in the early summer after the shrub has flowered.

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Question:
I would like my eight-foot Eugenia go grow to about 15 feet. How should I prune it to encourage healthy, thick growth?

Answer:
It would be best to start shaping the Eugenia now by clipping the tops and sides. By doing this, the hedge will grow in a tight pattern and close to the ground. Be sure to keep the sides sheared to keep them manageable. Also, work to ensure the top part of the Eugenia never gets wider than the lower section. It is important for the lower section to get as much light as it can get. Trimming the tops and sides should not slow down growth. Usually trimming encourages new growth.

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Question:
My Bridal Wreath has become bushy and green on top, with lots of bare and thick wood. How should I prune and feed it?

Answer:
In general, it is best to thin out up to one-third of the oldest stems and remove overcrowded growth of a Bridal Wreath Hedge (Spirea Prunifolia) each year, right after the spring flowers bloom. These plants, however, also rebound quickly from and can withstand rejuvenation pruning, and can be cut to within a few inches of the ground if it is necessary. Cutting back a hedge to a few inches high can temporarily destroy its screening ability. Thus, it may be best to rejuvenate a hedge over a few years, cutting one-third of the stems to the ground each year.

As far as what to feed the hedge: After pruning, help the hedge recover and thrive by feeding it a mixture of dried manure (about 20 lbs. for the average-sized hedge) and 2-3 cups of garden lime. Scatter this in a circle a foot away from the plant; just before a light spring rain will wash it into the soil.

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Question:
My Chinese Elm hedge is very leafy on top but very sparse on the bottom three to four feet. How can I prune it to have it fill in on the bottom?

Answer:
Hedges with bare areas near the ground were probably pruned improperly when the plant was very young. There is not much you can do to fill in the bare spots, short of cutting the whole hedge almost to ground level. Then you will need to prune the hedge plant as if it were a newly planted hedge. You will need to head back the stems to make them branch before they begin their second season of growth.. During the third season, you will need to start shearing the plant to the desired form, even though it is not yet full size.

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Question:
When should I plant and prune my Junipers?

Answer:
Plant in early spring to mid-spring in ordinary well-drained garden soil in full sun. In summer keep young plants well watered in dry periods; once established, they are drought tolerant. No pruning is generally required. If you need to shape or remove awkward growth, do it in the spring or summer. If you want to promote more bushiness, trim recent growth in the early spring. If you want to limit the size of your juniper, cut back all of the season's growth in summer.

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Question:
Please tell me about the Hollywood juniper's unusual growth pattern. Does it need pruning?

Answer:
The Hollywood Juniper grows into a broad cone shape. Although the main body of its foliage becomes as thick as if it had been sheared, delicately twisted branches emerge gracefully all around the plant. It may grow 15 feet tall in 25 years, often leaning to one side in a picturesque manner, and should not be pruned.

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Question:
How should I prune and overgrown Ixora hedge?

Answer:
After thinning the bushes in late winter or early spring, you'll want to cut all remaining stems back to about 12 inches from the ground just below them.

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Question:
I have a gardenia that still has leaves after keeping it inside all winter. The branches on my gardenia are long and little leaves at the top but better newer leaves on the lower six inches. Should I prune the taller less attractive stems or will they fill in as spring progresses?

Answer:
Pruning the taller stems should encourage new growth on the top. Thin out any twiggy or diseased branches to promote a more bushy plant. Since you have your gardenia indoors, you can prune it now.

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Question:
How do you prune camellias?

Answer:
Camellias usually require little pruning except to shape the plant. On young plants, you need to thin the flower buds to channel energy into growth. On older plants you can thin some flower buds to increase the size of the remaining flowers. Prune the stems just after the flowers have faded. When your camellia is young, if it is too spreading for your taste, you can cut back some of the side branches to encourage vertical growth. Also, if you feel the plant is too gangly, you can head some of the stems to the bases of the previous years'growth to induce branching. If you need to renovate an overgrown camellia, do this by cutting the whole bush to the bare stems. Do this all at once or over a couple of seasons. The camellia reticulata may not grow back after this type of drastic pruning.

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Question:
Is it absolutely necessary to prune my lilac bushes before June 10 in order to have a good blooming season next year? I live in Kansas.

Answer:
Lilacs tend to be very hardy and can withstand even mistakes in pruning. Only well established lilac bushes should be pruned. Heavy pruning should be done in early spring before the buds swell. Lighter pruning can be done just after the bushes bloom.

While pruning remove the oldest stems. Keep a few of the new suckers to let them grow to replace the older ones. Be careful not to leave too many suckers, as they tend to rob the plant's energy and may reduce the number of flowers. If you pinch off spent flowers just to the first leaves, this can give you more blooms the following year.

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Question:
How do I prune and fertilize Red Flame Sumacs and Staghorn Sumacs?

Answer:
These shrubs can grow up to 15 feet in height. The time to prune your sumac is during the early spring. Always wear gloves when you prune because the sap on a sumac is toxic. Never burn the wood you cut off.

If you want your sumac to develop into a bush, allow it to develop naturally. Of course, remove any damaged, dead or diseased wood. Also prune out crossing branches. Remove suckers as soon as they develop. This will help avoid a spindly look. Also, cut back one-fourth to one-third of the stems back to the ground each year. This will help produce larger, showier leaves.

As far as fertilizing, choose a good organic fertilizer with nitrogen. Read the package to determine to amount and how often to fertilize.

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Question:
I have three butterfly bushes. They have grown very wide, and I would like to prune them back. When and how should I do this?

Answer:
You should prune your butterfly bushes in late winter or early spring before any new growth has started. You need to cut back all the branches to within six inches of the ground. Deadheading the blossoms as they fade will encourage your bushes to bloom all summer long.

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Question:
I have two Ramapo rhododendrons. After they bloom should I deadhead them like you would other rhododendrons?

Answer:
Yes, it is a good idea to deadhead your rhododendrons. Pinch off at the base above the lateral growth buds. This encourages a healthier plant and more buds the following year, and it will also look nicer without the dried flowers on the plant.

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