July trim for spring bloomers

Q. I recently move to a home where three smoke bushes are trimmed to look like small trees. The problem is they are totally out of control - almost reaching the roof! I would like to trim or shape them, but do not want to ruin them. Can I trim them back now?

Colleen from Youngstown

A. Summer pruning is a chore many of us are afraid to do, as the common thought is that most pruning is done in the spring. That’s only true in the cases of fruit trees, berries and the gardeners who had cabin fever all winter.

For spring-blooming shrubs, summer is a great time to prune them for thinning or to give them shape for next year. Spring-blooming shrubs should be pruned by mid-July, as many of them form flower buds in August for next spring blooms.

As for the smoke bush, yes, Colleen can prune them now. Since they are in bloom, she will be cutting off this year’s bloom by doing so. The smoke bush can get up to 15 feet high, so to keep them from covering the house, they will need pruned nearly every year. As with most shrubs, the smoke bush will respond to pruning by sending out more shoots. A small amount of pruning each year after the bloom is gone will help keep them in good shape.

So if you don’t like to prune, this is not the right place for the smoke bushes.

If pruning isn’t your thing, wait until late August and move these shrubs to a location where they can grow that 12-15’ without being bothered. Choose Another deciduous shrub that is a tree form that will fill the same space without taking over. A tree hydrangea is a great example of something to fit the space.

As for other summer pruning, stick to thinning and shaping trees and shrubs. Don’t go overboard and cut back a lot of stems. Take out one here, one there, and leave it alone. Come back next week and see if the shrub really needs any more pruning. We’ll review summer pruning chores and more July 26 at a hands-on clinic. To learn about it, visit go.osu.edu/summerprune.

For details on smoke bushes, visit go.osu.edu/smokebush.

Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.

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