Horticulture Magazine

When (And How) To Prune Choisya Ternata

white choisya ternata flowers

Choisya is a beautiful bush bursting with adorable white flowers.

The delicate yet confident colour palette makes this plant a popular choice for British gardeners for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, they’re charming to look at. Second, they pair well with all sorts of colours and shapes thanks to their non-dominating aesthetic, making them a flexible and versatile choice when planning your garden.

stunning blossoms of Mexican orange
Stunning Mexican Orange

With so many flowers though, some gardeners find themselves wondering how best to prune this buoyant bloom.

If you’ve got a choisya and you’re unsure how to prune it without causing damage, or just need a little more info on the best time of the year for your pruning session, read on.

We’ve pulled together some fantastic tips to help you take the best care of this luxurious plant.

What is choisya?

If you’re newly acquainted with choisya, here’s a quick rundown of what this plant is and, more importantly, why it’s so popular.

Choisya is an evergreen shrub that hails from the rue family of plants.

For large parts of the year, choisya bursts forth with a dainty and attractive white blossom, and it boasts a captivating scent that attracts humans and pollinators alike, thanks to the abundant nectar production.

Several varieties of choisya have been awarded with the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit: an accolade reserved for plants that grow especially well in British climates.

Therefore, if you’re looking for an attractive and easy to grow plant that will bring a buzz of natural activity to your garden, look no further.

It’s possible you’ll see choisya referred to as Mexican orange, a name that alludes to their visual and scented similarities to the flowers of the orange tree.

When to prune choisya

This is a common question amongst gardeners with choisya.

Because of the enthusiastic bloom it can be a little daunting to know where to start, which is why we’ve put this article together.

First, let’s take a look at the reasons why you might want to prune this plant –

  • Your choisya is getting too big, and is encroaching into other areas of your garden. Perhaps over pathways, making them tricky to walk on comfortably.
  • Your choisya is growing out of its desired shape. As a shrub, keeping this plant a certain shape is not only possible but maybe even desirable. If you’ve got topiary ambitions, you’ll find yourself pruning more often.

If neither of these concerns is relevant, you won’t really need to prune choisya much.

The plant can do without it (unlike some other ornamental varieties that suffer if left unkempt).

an overgrown choisya bush
This plant can get a little unruly!

Deciding when to prune choisya

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when pruning: firstly, new growth will occur at the pruning site.

Because one of the goals of pruning is to reduce the size of the plant whilst encouraging fresh new growth, you need to ensure you prune at a time of year where this will take place.

This leads us to our second consideration: frosty spells will damage newly pruned sites, potentially killing off any new growth.

With this in mind, the answer to the question of when to prune choisya becomes “after any risk of frost has passed!”

How far back can choisya be pruned?

This plant can take quite an aggressive pruning, up to a maximum of half of its size.

It’s usually recommended to prune more frequently and less drastically, but you do have options if you’ve left it longer than the ideal amount of time between haircuts.

How to prune choisya ternata

Now we’ve looked at the whens, let’s take a look at the how. Pruning choisya isn’t too different from pruning other evergreen shrubs.

You’ll just need a sharp gardening tool like pruning shears, secateurs – or, if you don’t have those, a good pair of scissors.

In our newly-sanitized world, it’s likely you have at least a bottle of hand sanitiser available.

Coating the blades of your pruning tool with a glug of this will sterilise them and kill any diseases or fungal spores that may be lurking from previous pruning sessions in other areas of your garden.

Once your tool is suitably sanitary, simply identify the parts of the plant you want to prune, grab them, and snip down to the desired length. Take care to use one clean cut where possible rather than hacking away.

The more exposed the cut, the more likely it is that disease will take hold; a clean-cut has the smallest possible incision site.

Once pruned, your choisya will appreciate a bit of fresh compost around the roots. This nutritional boost will expedite new growth, and should lead to a friskier, healthier bloom.

a honey bee sat on the white flowers of Mexican orange plant
It’s not just human visitors that will find this plant charming!

You’ve made the right ‘choisya’

Tending to the plants in your garden and keeping them in their best possible condition is an important concern for many gardeners.

With so many plants to look after though, and a different set of nuanced care requirements for each, the task can feel a little daunting!

It’s our hope that this guide has given you the information you need to trim your choisya at the right time, and to keep your shrub looking fabulous year-round.

Just remember: prune after the risk of frost has passed, aim for one clean cut rather than hacking away at the thing, and give a little sprinkle of compost around the base of the plant when you’re done.

This will give new growth the best possible chance to take hold, removing the risk of cold damage, plant disease, or malnourishment.

Happy gardening!

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