The Q&A Archives: Pruning Shrubs

Question: We have two Dwarf Blue Willow shrubs that are overgrown; they are aprox 5' in height and the trunk area is rather woody. How much can I cut them back this spring without damaging them? I would like to cut them back as much as possible and get them more in control.

Answer: Pruning shrubs is best done in the very early spring before new growth appears. In general when pruning an overgrown shrub, you can cut out some of the main stems at the base to let light in, and cut out some of the twiggy tip growth. If your shrub is really overgrown, I would recommend the three year program. Cut back 1/3 of the old stems to the ground each year until all that is left is the new young growth that emerges from the base. Pruning in this fashion is much less of a shock to the shrub than doing all the pruning at once. You can recognize old stems by their rough, shaggy looking bark and thickness. New branches on the other hand are usually smooth, shiny, and thin.

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