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Monday, December 12, 2016

When to Prune Indian Hawthorne and Still Have Spring Flowers

Q. I'd like to trim my hawthorns because they are too tall. If I do that now in October, will I be removing the blooms that emerge in the spring?

A. General rule of thumb is if a plant blooms in early spring (January, February, March and even April) then its flower buds developed during the previous late summer and fall months. Pruning with a hedge shears, or cutting off all the new growth with a hand shears, removes flower buds as well as the spring flower show. Think photinia and pyracantha.
Photinia showing its red leaves and flowers in the spring
            If it blooms during the summer, then it produces flowers on its new growth. In this case, winter pruning will not remove the flower show. But summer pruning does. Think oleander.
            The key to whether you get a spring flower show is really more about HOW the pruning is done. Trees or shrubs that bloom in the early spring, if pruned correctly during the winter, will still provide a flower show.
Pyracantha blooms in the spring
If pyracantha is pruned correctly we will get these red berries for fall and winter color.

            Pruning with a hedge shears, unless the plant is part of a hedge, is never the right way to prune. When pruning shrubs, choose between two different techniques: renewal pruning or rejuvenation pruning.
            Renewal pruning is what is done to Lantana. It is cut to the ground, leaving one or 2 inches sticking above the soil to provide for new growth. This type of pruning is done to overgrown, woody oleanders and many other overgrown shrubs.
Lantana is pruned to the ground every year, renewal pruning, because it will die back in the winter in cold climates
            Rejuvenation pruning is selectively cutting 2 to 4 of the older stems, close to the ground, every 3 to 4 years. This is done to plants that don’t grow back as quickly as Lantana or oleander.
Look at the base of the shrub. Several older stems were cut to the ground leaving others. This is rejuvenation pruning.
            Rejuvenation pruning selectively removes a few of the oldest stems to make way for younger growth which grows from the base. This pruning technique always leaves a floral display, regardless of the plant and when it blooms.
            Prune hawthorns now and you will not interfere with the spring floral display if you use rejuvenation pruning. Pick 3 to 4 of your tallest stems and prune them back to within a few inches of the ground.

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