Flowering Shrubs and Spring Clean Up
Written by: Sumati Shah, Go Go Green Thumbs
Early spring flowering shrubs are truly the most delightful things in the landscape. They’re like a cheer squad for the outdoors.
Witch Hazel and Forsythia are among the earliest – bright yellow simple flowers popping out on the familiar forsythia before the leaves open up.
Redbuds are a native beauty that look so exotic to the unfamiliar observer with their tiny pink flowers covering the stems of their big round shaped plants.
They hold a promise of growth to follow.
Then come the lilacs – they announce that strawberry season is on the way.
Later in summer a big showoff is Rose of Sharon – always considered late to the party and always making a big entrance.
To be sure that there are flowers to be enjoyed, we need to prune at the right time for these woody shrubs, keeping in mind their flower buds form at different times and circumstances.
All the very early flowering shrubs bloom only on old wood – I.e.: they will only bloom on last year’s growth.
Rule of Green Thumbs: Prune spring flowering shrubs immediately after flowering
With all of these I like to consider it an invitation to bring branches inside to enjoy as cut flowers. It’s like doing 2 jobs at once if you choose to see it that way, and why not!?
Lilacs can be pruned back quite hard, and they benefit from being thinned out a bit – no just tipping the branches of the spent buds.
Forsythia – definitely play fast and loose – they’re vigourous and easily accommodate whether you want to keep them all clipped into shape as a hedge, or let them flow a little fancy free and take their natural loose fountain shape.
The rose of sharon is the outlier in this group – not a spring but a summer bloomer. I bring this one up as an example of how very different all these plants are. Don’t presume she’s a goner just because her branches are bare for a time after it seems everything in the garden has come to life – prune the shrub to shape, and often removing up to 1/3 of the plant if you’d like to keep the size in check and not have branches drooping under the weight of all the flowers come late June! This one flowers on new wood – so you’re rejuvenating as you prune. Smell the lilacs while your pruning…and maybe snacking on strawberries.
Get snipping friends, the flowers beckon!