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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When and How to Prune Mock Orange

Q. I would like to cut back my dwarf mock orange. When can I do it and how much can I cut back without harming the plants? I am hoping to make them healthier. The back plant gets less sun.
Pruning too deep on the outside of mock orange can result in "holes" showing dead wood.

Mock orange pruned as a hedge
A. This is the mock orange of the desert Southwest, not the mock orange of northern climates. The common name of mock orange pertains to a couple of different plants.You won't be able to cut them back very much because the leaves are only on the outside couple of inches of the canopy. Once you cut beyond this layer, it's just a bunch of twigs and sticks. These twigs and sticks are alive and will produce new growth but it would be very unsightly until it grows back.
These plants grow very slowly so they will not come back quickly. If you decide to cut them back I wouldn't do it until late next spring when plant starts growing again and there is less time to look at a bunch of twigs and stems.
You can cut them back in late spring and open up the plant and you will see new growth coming from stems and branches that receive full sunlight. It might take a couple of months for them to start to fill in again. They are that slow.
Regarding the browning of the leaves, If you are going to cut them back I would pull back the rock from around them and put down some compost and wood mulch. They will do better in an amended soil.
I would then increase the irrigation so that it wets that area more and fertilize them with a tree and shrub fertilizer just after you prune them back.

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