The Q&A Archives: Floppy Viburnum

Question: I have a mature snowball viburnum bush, about 8-10ft tall, which I inherited from the previous homeowner. I thought it looked a little unkempt so I went in and pruned out any branches that were dead. The last two winters we have had ice storms which have caused some damage on our plants. When the viburnum greened up, I again pruned out as many dead branches as I could. When it leafed out and bloomed, the weight of the blooms pulled the branches that were left, mostly young canes, down to the ground leaving the bush looking floppy and nothing like its original vase shape I saw the first year it bloomed. How do I get this shrub to stand back up? Do I need to prune it or will it get better on its own with time? Did I prune it incorrectly?

Answer: This plant tends to be floppy,, especially when it is in full bloom and if there has been rain to make it wet and even heavier. It will be sturdier in full sun than it would in shade, and it will be less floppy if it is not oversupplied with nitrogen, so make sure not to overfertilize. In some cases the older dead stems may help support the plant, but it is always a good idea to remove dead wood from the interior of a shrub. Pruning would typically be limited to removing dead wood and possibly thinning out some (maybe a fifth of them) of the oldest stems at the base of the shrub each year. An overall trim however could encourage weaker tip growth.

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