The Q&A Archives: Pruning of shrubs

Question: Hi...

I have a very very old phitzer... its huge. I need to trim about
a foot off of each branch. When should I do this? Is a foot off of a 3 foot branch too much? Will the green ends come back on OK?

I have a burning bush about 5 feet tall. It is getting too tall and wide for the area its in. I would like to trim it back down to about 3 feet. When should I do this? Do I take branches out of the center as well? Will that encourage new branches? Is taking it down two feet too much at one time? Do I cut the branches down to the next

Answer: Your shrubs can be pruned in the spring, just as new growth begins. This will help redirect the new growth to the sites of the pruning cuts. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn't remove more than about one-third of the live material in any one pruning session. So, if you have shrubs that need renovating, plan to reduce their size over a 2-3 year time period. Going about it slowly will reduce stress and allow you to enjoy any flowers your shrubs might produce. In pruning, cut back to a bud that's facing in the direction you want growth to go. I prune to an outside facing bud so the center of the shrub won't be too crowded. If there are dead stems and branches within the center of your shrubs, you can prune them all out without considering them to be part of the one-third pruning rule.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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