Late spring and early summer are ideal times to prune those plants that don’t get a haircut in winter. As mentioned in my previous article on winter pruning, pruning should always be accomplished with sterile tools, which means wiping your secateurs or clippers clean with a 1/10th bleach solution in between each cut. Tools should also be sharp, to create a clean wound that heals evenly without excessively traumatising the plant tissues.
Here are some of my favorite plants to focus my pruning on in spring.
1. Spring-Flowering, Non-Fruiting Shrubs
Ornamental flowering shrubs, like rhododendrons, lilacs, forsythias and viburnums should be pruned after their blossoms have faded. Pruning these at any other time of year means you run the risk of losing their full flush of spring blossoms.
2. Young Fruit Trees
Young fruit trees can benefit from a spring freshening up. They should be pruned as soon as buds form in order to form them into an ideal shape and minimize their energy expenditure of fruiting. (It should be focussed on rooting and developing a strong scaffold.) Take care to use sharp shears and sterile equipment to reduce the risk of infecting the tree with bacterial or fungal pathogens.
3. Hedges & Topiaries
Hedges of plants, like beech and cherry laurel, as well as topiaries, like boxwood, are best pruned after they have leafed out in early spring. This gives them the form in which they will grow for the season, as well as encouraging full, gap-free inward growth.
Many evergreens only have new growth on the tips of branches, so the best time to prune them is after the new growth for the year has arrived and ripened a little bit. After pruning, the plant will have the whole growing season to form new terminal buds for growing and filling in next year.
5. Woody Perennial Herbs
Herbs like rosemary, oregano and sage grow leggy and woody over time. In order to return them to their original mounded growth patterns, prune them down in spring as growth begins.
6. Diseased & Dead Growth
It’s almost always a good time to prune out diseased or dead branches, but many are easier to see as plants put out leafy growth in spring.
It may be hard to make time for pruning during busy spring activities, but a few quick snips of your perennial plants will ensure they stay healthy and happy for another growing season.