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It’s time to prune! Oh wait, maybe not.


Don’t forget, dear readers, that late winter is the best time to prune many shrubs (but not anything that blooms in spring).

I can’t wait to do a bit of pruning for health, shape and size in my yard.

Time to prune your shrubs!

First off, that is not a black and white photo. Isn’t that sad? The whole world is still shades of gray now. Even the sight of a brown lawn would be welcome at this point.

Secondly, you can see that unless I plan on digging out the shrubs prior to pruning them, there will be no pruning anytime soon.

One of the shrubs that gets pruned every year just to control its size is this Limelight hydrangea. It’s a give and take, though. A good pruning (remember the year I cut it all back?) helps keep the size in check (by the way, the better option here would have been to plant a shrub whose mature size was more appropriate for the location but at the time I had no idea that a Limelight in a sunny spot would grow quite so much) but reduces the amount of flowers you’ll have that year.

I won’t do anything so drastic to it this year, but I will try to follow the one-third rule. I’ll take out no more (and probably less) of the oldest branches and do a small amount of pruning individual branches for shape as well as cutting it’s height back by about a one-third.

I will do the same thing for most of the other hydrangeas I have which fall under the panicle (Limelights, Little Limes) type or the smooth (Incrediball, Invicibelle and Annabelle) type. The exception will be my old Annabelle on the northwest corner of the house which is generally a mess. That will cut cut back to about 18 inches because it needs a complete reboot after years of no pruning.

If you need more guidance on pruning hydrangeas (or when to prune other types of shrubs), check out Proven Winners pruning guide.

The other plants that are in serious need of pruning this year are my Oso Easy roses. I love these roses. Well, I love all roses, but I’ve had a difficult time with most of them. These Oso Easy roses (which I’ve found to be superior to the Knock Out roses) grow and flower like crazy. And they got way too crazy last year. By the end of summer they were huge (and still blooming) but had lost all sense of shape and the occasional thorny branch would reach out and try to grab passersby.

Those will wait until spring for their pruning, when I can clearly tell where there is dead wood that needs to be removed.

It’s sort of a sad world when I’m so desperate to garden that I actually look forward to pruning, isn’t it?

So what’s it like where you are? Can you even find your garden yet?

16 Responses

  1. Hello everyone,

    maybe you can help me as I’m new to growing roses I planted 11 oso easy roses last summer. Before winter hit AKA Michigan I put around 12 15 inches of mulch around the base. Now I’m looking at my bushes any new growth is coming from the bottom of the plant , Do I need to prune the oso easy? not trying to be THORN but can anyone advise me.

    many thanks Lisa

    1. Yes, you will have to prune off anything dead on your Oso Easy roses, but have no fear they will recover quickly. I would wait a little bit yet before pruning too much. I’m still seeing buds swelling on the canes that look dead on mine. Prune to just above a bud (preferably outward facing) when it is time to prune. Do prune off anything that’s truly dead (and you can always prune more if you like). I throw a handful of Espoma Rose-Tone at the base of the plane when I prune as well.

  2. Similar here but Mark just went out to try to prune our apple trees. If it starts to melt it will be too difficult to safely position the ladder. So we have snow and warmth for a couple of days; the window we have been waiting for.

  3. You know that we're having the same kind of winter as you, so there's not much to see or do out there. It is finally getting above freezing today and tomorrow, so maybe that 5' snowbank in my driveway will melt down. No chance of any yard work for at least 3 or 4 weeks. Remember a couple of years ago when we had 80 degree weather in March? Not this year!!
    Question for you, oh master gardener: I have 2 year old Annabelle's in the shade. Should I prune them back to 18" or just deadhead them? I want them to grow taller than they did last year.

    1. I do remember that spring! My favorite ever. Oh we were so spoiled!

      As for the Annabelles, if you are looking for height, just deadhead them this year and of course cut out any dead wood.

  4. I've been eyeing my raspberries and roses for pruning lately. Our snow just got rained away this week, so I'm thinking all kinds of springy thoughts. I spent the whole morning weeding and it was great! Yup, it must be early spring, because that's about the only time I'll use "weeding" and "great" in the same sentence!

    1. You're so right! You know it's spring when weeding is "great." I will try to remember that when it's the middle of summer and I'm out there digging up weeds by the wheelbarrow full.

  5. I love pruning! I've been experimenting with early-season pruning of perennials to control their growth/increase bloom, etc. I am in southern OH and we typically cut back Knockout roses in early March, but we have had so much snow/cold that we probably could wait a few weeks…there's absolutely no budding going on! One shrub I have figured out that I can prune down to about 15-18" is my St. Johnswort Goldencup. They are taking over!!!! Plus I am dying to cut back my ornamental grasses b/c I can't take the pieces that the wind blows all over the yard anymore!!!

  6. I know how you feel – if I thought I could make any headway being out there with a blowdryer to make it melt faster, I'd be seriously tempted!

  7. I have pruned my double knock outs, but it got cold again before I could tackle my hydrangeas. I did manage to pull out 7 dead bushes last weekend – casualties of the polar vortex. My flowering vines are gone baby, gone. I also have a boxwood that is toast and my rosemary is dead but it is so gigantic and the roots and in so deeply that pulling that sucker up will be a Marc job. Yargh.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear about all your losses, Katie. I'm particularly sad to hear about that rosemary; it must have been huge. Well, look at this way, this is nature's way of ensuring that we get to put new plants in our gardens.

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