Valley Grows Q and A: Better plant selection helps with pruning

Q: Is there a way to have to prune less?

I keep pruning, only to have more issues each year with plants not having enough green at the top and more sprouts. — Jerry from Youngstown

A: It seems that pruning is always a challenge because plants don’t grow the direction we want them to grow; plants keep growing beyond the size we desire and plants send out too many shoots.

The reality is we are most likely choosing the wrong plant for the right location and sometimes we make incorrect cuts.

While you can learn more about pruning, proper plant selection can make a big difference in the amount of pruning you have to do. It is challenging, though, because we want our landscapes to look perfect when the plants are first put in place.

To start, as long as you are not shearing a shrub twice a year, you are probably doing things right. That is, selective pruning. This is the best method for reducing size of plants and thinning plants as needed to get better sunlight penetration down into the canopy.

Selective pruning is just like it sounds — selecting specific branches to prune out. Shearing is cutting all of the branches just a little to even up shrubs.

Plant selection is our choice. Many times, we choose a shrub that is 6 feet tall, but we keep shearing and pruning it down to 3 feet. Other times, someone else planted it in the wrong location. Pruning encourages more growth, so the result is large brown stems in the center with little green growth around the sides and top of the shrub.

Your best option is to move the plant to a location where it can get to the size it wants. For example, a Limelight hydrangea grows to 8 feet or taller. It is better suited as an anchor plant in a garden away from the house’s windows or as a living fence between neighbors. Then, choose a smaller plant that is similar like Little Lime or Bobo.

Some taxus (yew) shrubs grow well beyond 6 feet tall. They will thrive in a location other than in front of your picture window. Choose a smaller version, or another evergreen that stays at 3 feet or shorter.

The same thing goes for trees that are too big — many shorter options are available.

Your other option is to learn more about pruning, but it will not reduce the amount of time you spend pruning. It will improve the quality of the cuts you make.

Pruning must be managed every year to ensure the plants are kept to the size you prefer. This is why I encourage moving plants and choosing the right plant for the right site instead of spending so much time pruning.

For more on pruning, go to http://go.osu.edu/properprune.

For options for smaller shrubs, go to http://go.osu.edu/therightshrub.

• Barrett is The Ohio State University extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit questions to the Plant and Pest Clinic. Questions can be submitted at any time. Find details at go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic.


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