Maintenance: Pruning and Care of Shrubs, Ground Covers and Flowers

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Shrubs are generally low maintenance. However, some pruning provides a vigorous appearance and allows light penetration. Prune to:

  • Maximize available space.
  • Maintain sight distance and sign visibility along roadways.
  • Eliminate damaged branches.
  • Maintain a neat-looking yard.

Prune once a year before bud break, except for flowering shrubs; these can be pruned after flowering each spring. Here are examples of how good pruning is achieved:


You can do additional pruning any time during the season when temperatures are below 85 degrees. Do not prune more than one-third of the plant at any one time. When cutting stems, try to:

  • Cut stems back to just above a bud that points in the direction you want the plant to grow.
  • Cut stems back to an outward facing bud to "open up" a plant.
  • Cut stems back to an inward facing bud to "tighten up" a plant.

"Thinning" is removing a branch down to its main stem or within a few inches of soil level. This results in a taller, open shrub and stimulates new shoots from the base. Thinning is used most often to rejuvenate old, woody, unproductive plants.

Fertilizing Trees, Shrubs, Ground Covers and Flowers
All plants need feeding at least annually with a three-month or longer slow-release fertilizer, which can be made from organic matter, coated urea or polymer-coated formulas. Check the grower's label for instructions.

Next: Pruning and Care of Trees

The seven horticultural principles: