Why now is the right time to fix those overgrown shrubs


If you have an overgrown forsythia or lilac, now is the time to get it under control by using proper pruning techniques.

It’s not uncommon for some of these large shrubs to get out of hand, especially if they are planted in an area where they don’t have the space to really grow and spread. Sometimes they get just plain straggly.

When this happens, use a pruning technique called rejuvenation pruning. It’s very easy to accomplish and leads to a great looking, new plant.

Simply take your loppers or your pruning saw and cut all the stems back to about six to 12 inches above the ground. That’s it. Done.

This technique can be successfully used on many deciduous shrubs. It should be completed, however, before the new growth begins in the spring.

Deciduous shrubs store their energy in their root system for the winter. Therefore, in the spring they put all of this energy into new growth, resulting in the new plant.

If you aren’t willing to prune back this far, use another rejuvenation method. This method requires that you take about one-third of the older stems and remove them back to six inches.

Do this three years in a row; each year new growth will take over where the old branches were removed. This method is typically used with lilacs as hard pruning on a lilac results in about two or three years of no flowers.

Speaking of flowers, since you are doing this in the spring before new growth begins, it’s likely that you will prune off any spring blooms.

With forsythia, you could wait until after the blooms show off and then cut back. This is such a tough shrub that I have even pruned it this hard in the middle of summer and it came back.

I use this technique on quite a few of my shrubs. Red-twigged dogwood for instance, has a tendency to get a disease that causes the stems to turn brown instead of the nice red color that looks great in the winter.

I cut this back to six inches around every two or three years.

Every spring I cut potentilla, spiraea and barberry back to two or three inches. This results in a nice rounded shrub that it not straggly.

I also use this technique on several, but not all, of my hydrangeas. Limelight hydrangea for instance, has much larger blooms on shorter stems if I cut it back. Without cutting it back, it will get around 12’ tall with smaller blooms but more of them.

You really can’t kill these deciduous shrubs with harsh pruning. Experiment on your plants to see what you like.

Note I am writing about deciduous shrubs, not evergreens. Next week, watch for information on pruning evergreen shrubs.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Home Garden

Fire department surprises 3-year-old with birthday party after guests cancel at last minute
Fire department surprises 3-year-old with birthday party after guests cancel at last minute

The Harrisburg Fire Department in North Carolina surprised a 3-year-old with a birthday party after several of his classmates canceled Sunday.  Melissa Reid said she received several text messages the morning of her son's birthday party from parents, letting her know her son's classmates couldn't make it.  >> Need something to...
Springfield’s Rocking Horse gets $50,000 to help kids impacted by drugs
Springfield’s Rocking Horse gets $50,000 to help kids impacted by drugs

A Springfield medical health center will receive new money to help local kids who have lost a parent to drugs. CVS Health distributed a $50,000 grant to Rocking Horse Community Health Center Friday morning that will be used to help Clark County children who have been impacted the most by the opioid epidemic. The money will also go to help children...
CHEERS! The Dayton Art Institute Oktoberfest mugs are a coveted collectible
CHEERS! The Dayton Art Institute Oktoberfest mugs are a coveted collectible

Handcrafted mugs created by regional potters have been a sought-after collectible since Oktoberfest at the Dayton Art Institute began in the 1970s.  The earliest mug in the DAI’s collection, from 1974, is made from glass and features a printed DAI logo. In the years following the mugs were mass produced until the idea to use local potters...
What cats see when they look in the mirror
What cats see when they look in the mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Abby, our 16-year old cat, thinks she is. When Abby could no longer jump up on the kitchen counter to eat from her bowl, we searched for a place she could easily reach but Teddy, our Lab, could not. We placed the queen bee’s bowl in front of a large mirror on the master bathroom&rsquo...
Are household disinfectants making kids overweight? Study finds possible link
Are household disinfectants making kids overweight? Study finds possible link

Obesity affects nearly 1 in 6 children in the United States, according to new data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State of Obesity report. And new findings from the Canadian Medical Association Journal reveal there may be more contributing to that stat than overeating. Overweight children are approximately five times more...
More Stories