The Q&A Archives: Pruning photinia

Question: I have a 10-foot-tall photinia that's out of control. What's the preferred method for pruning it? R.B. Fort Worth, TX

Answer: The ideal time to prune photinia is in the spring, but any time other than midsummer is fine, says Doug Welsh, landscape specialist at Texas A M University in College Station. In your area, photinia will quickly grow to more than 10 feet tall. To keepthis shrub manageable, you need to prune annually, shaping it so the base is wider than the top. This allows light to reach the bottom branches, preventing them from dying and creating a bare area near ground level. Welsh also suggests not removing more than half the plant's growth in a single season. You can shear it back to the level you want - you'll need loppers rather than shears on the bigger branches. Or you can use thinning cuts, taking the larger stems back to side branches that extend to near the height you are after. In either case, new growth will sprout from the woody branches, and in two to three months, you'll have an attractive shrub again. If you don't want to bother with so much yearly pruning, Welch recommends replacing the photinia with a slower-growing evergreen. Dwarf Burford holly, Nandina, wax myrtle and cherry laurel are all attractive and grow well in your area, he says.

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