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A well-kept shrub is a spectacular sight, but it doesn’t happen by chance. Shrubs grow very quickly in South Alabama and rarely follow a particular pattern. Without the proper maintenance, your carefully manicured shrubs can easily turn into a chaotic, overgrown mess.
There are two main methods to keeping your shrubs in stunning shape: pruning and trimming. While both methods involve cutting away unwanted branches, they serve different purposes and are done in different ways. Here’s what you need to know about both to keep your shrubs (and your curb appeal) happy and healthy.
Trimming is what happens when you “clean up” your shrubs with an electric hedge trimmer. The process involves cutting back the branches of an overgrown plant, typically by skimming the top and sides with an electric trimmer. Trimming is usually done to maintain a specific shape or size and give your landscape a polished, symmetrical look.
When to trim your shrubs
Because trimming isn’t done until plants are overgrown, it’s easy to set a trimming schedule. How often you’ll need to trim your shrubs depends on their species, your local weather conditions, and your landscape goals. Formal hedges may need to be trimmed multiple times per year to maintain a manicured look, while shrubs with a more natural shape may only need trimming once per year.
- Consider your shrub’s natural shape. Your shrub’s natural shape will be the easiest one to maintain.
- Shear straight lines. Consider placing 2 stakes along the outer edges of your shrub line and running a taut string between them. This will help you achieve a uniform height and reduce the risk of over-trimming.
- Trim the base wider than the top. This will allow proper sunlight penetration to protect the overall health of your shrubs.
Pruning is a more selective process that involves removing dead, diseased, or broken branches that harm the health of your shrubs. Unlike trimming, each individual branch is cut carefully by hand at specific spots and angles to encourage healthy re-growth. Pruning is usually done with hand shears or loppers, but may require a pruning saw for thicker branches.
Although pruning can improve your plant’s appearance, it’s primarily done for health reasons. Unhealthy branches drain nutrients from the rest of the plant and provide an enticing home for insects and disease. Pruning also increases light penetration to the interior of your shrubs, encouraging healthy growth throughout the plant.
When to prune your plants
The right time to prune your shrubs depends on your specific purpose. As a general rule, pruning should be done in late winter or early spring to prepare your plants for healthy new growth (March-May). This ensures that your shrubs aren’t stressed by extreme summer temperatures and gives new growth time to mature before the fall.
As with most rules, there are exceptions. If your flowering shrubs bloom during the spring, they should be pruned after flowering. Additionally, unhealthy branches can (and should) be removed at any time of year without harming the health of your shrubs.
- Make clean cuts. Take extra care to make smooth, clean cuts at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure the cut doesn’t hold water, which encourages disease.
- Cut above the collar. Make your cuts within one-quarter inch of the main stem, staying just above the bumpy joint where the branch meets the main trunk. This increases the plant’s ability to callous over and recover from the wound.
- Use sharp shears. Dull or neglected tools create ragged cuts that encourage disease and prevent healthy re-growth. Keep your shears sharp and use the appropriate tool for individual branch thickness.
Should you trim or prune your shrubs?
Trimming and pruning are both beneficial to your plants and shrubs, and a well-rounded maintenance plan will include both. Deciding which to use depends on your type of shrub, its current condition, and your desired outcome.
If you aren’t sure whether your shrubs should be trimmed or pruned, a professional company like Chad’s Landscape Management can help. Our expert landscapers can determine your shrub’s unique needs and provide expert, quality care to keep them in optimal health and beauty. Contact us today for a fast, risk-free consultation!