Horticulture Magazine

8 Shrubs To Prune In Late Spring

gardener pruning currant bushes

Knowing when to prune different plants is important and late spring is the time to prune a number of different shrubs.

There are, of course, a wide selection of different plants to prune during each season and late spring is the time to think about pruning a range of shrubs.

This is the time to think about pruning shrubs that flowered in early or mid-spring, and whose flowering time is coming to an end.

Here are just some of the shrubs to prune in late spring:

1. Berberis

dense orange clustered flowers of Berberis darwinii
Berberis darwinii

Berberis do not always require extensive pruning. But you can prune them to keep their size in check and to keep them full and attractive over time.

Late spring, just after Berberis like B. darwinii have finished flowering, is a good time to prune.

Pruning at this time allows new growth to harden off before the cold weather arrives once more. And preserves buds for blooms the following spring.

However, do not prune all the branches unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you’ll get no barberries for yourself, or for the birds.

It is a good idea to thin old and defoliated branches, getting rid of any that have been damaged. And it can also be a good idea to prune back up to a third (but no more) of the oldest branches down to the crown.

If your Berberis has grown too large, you can also prune back, removing around a third of the length of each branch.

You should always be sure to cut just above a leaf node, pair of leaves or lateral branch so new branching growth can occur.

To keep your Berberis growing slowly, you can also give it a light trim, removing just a few centimetres of growth at the end of each branch. Take care when pruning Berberis as the spines can be sharp!

2. Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Flowering quince is a beautiful shrub, with beautiful red flowers in the spring which are followed by edible fruits which are great with apples in jellies and other preserves.

These are shrubs which really don’t need much maintenance at all. But if you do take a little time to prune in late spring then this can sometimes help make your plant healthier and more attractive.

First of all, simply look over your shrub once the flowers are fading, and remove anything that is dead, damaged or diseased.

If the shrub is getting straggly, you can also shorten the new shoots back to around six leaves.

This can be beneficial as it encourages new flowering spurs to form. However, bear in mind that if you remove all flowering shoots, you will not get any fruit later in the year.

If you have an old and mature example, you may also find that it needs more extensive renovation pruning.

You can remove a third of the stems at the base.

If you do this over three years, all of the top growth will be less than three years old and you may find that this has a great impact on the health and appearance of your shrub, which you can then return to only lightly pruning each year.

3. Forsythia

yellow blooming forsythia

Forsythia is another shrub best to prune in late spring after the flowers have faded.

This is a shrub that bears its flowers on the new growth it makes this year. So prune in late spring so the new growth can develop over the summer and you can enjoy another good flowering display next year.

It is not a good idea to be too excessive in pruning. Don’t try to prune forsythia into a formal shape as it is naturally more arching with a looser formation.

If you try to make things too neat this can limit its flowering potential.

On younger plants, pruning should usually be restricted to simply removing a few of the oldest stems so that there is space for new growth.

However, if you have a mature Forsythia, you can also consider cutting up to a third of the stems back to the base to encourage healthy new growth to emerge.

4. Flowering Currant (Ribes)

Ribes is another shrub which should be pruned after it has finished flowering, in late spring.

Most younger Ribes will not need excessive pruning, though it can be helpful to give the whole shrub a light trim all over to keep them in check and tidy if it is growing a little wild.

As with the Flowering Quince and Forsythia, mature Ribes can also be renovated by pruning up to a third of the oldest stems, repeating this over the next couple of years.

However, rather than pruning these to the base, you should prune them to around half a metre or so above the ground.

Leave these in place to encourage a bushy growth habit from that height.

5. Kerria Japonica

yellow Japanese kerria blossoms
Japanese kerria

The whippy stems of Kerria can look great growing up through other shrubs.

With its sunshine yellow flowers, it can really brighten up the spring garden.

Like Forsythia, this is a shrub with flowers only on new growth, so this is another shrub to prune in late spring, just after the flowers have faded.

This plant will do best if you do prune quite harshly. It may seem extreme, but it is a good idea to remove all shoots which have flowered just after flowering – cutting them right back to the base.

You don’t need to worry because after you prune in late spring, long new shoots will spring right up over the summer, and bear new flowers next spring.

6. Mock Orange (Philadephus)

After Mock Orange flowers in April and May, you can take the opportunity to prune in June.

The best way to keep the plants in shape is to cut back shoots to strong buds every year just after they have finished flowering.

The pruned material from your Mock Orange could also be used to create some cuttings.

From cuttings of Philadelphus taken at the same time of year, you should be able to relatively easily get cuttings to take root and obtain new plants for free – so you could kill two birds with one stone.

7. Spiraea x arguta

white Spiraea x arguta flowers in clusters
Spiraea x arguta

After the lacy white flowers of this shrub begin to fade in late spring, it is time to take the opportunity to give this shrub a prune too.

Pruning it in late spring will keep it neat and encourage bushy growth.

It is a good idea to cut the flowering stems back to a side shoot, and to remove any branches which are not in optimal healthy entirely.

Cutting back hard is not usually a good idea, because with drastic renovation pruning, this Spiraea will tend not to flower at all for a couple of years.

8. Weigela

Weigela is another flowering shrub that should be pruned in late spring.

This is also another plant that flowers on new growth, so if you prune right after flowering, you will not prune out the new wood which is yet to grow (on which flowers will form next spring).

You do not need to prune excessively, but can prune to keep the size of the shrub in check, and to improve its form and appearance.

Just make sure that you prune back branches to a point where two branches meet to encourage a bushy form.

You can also renovate a mature Weigela by removing the oldest stems every few years, to ensure that there is plenty of young wood and the shrub looks at its best.

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