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Pruning Annual Flowers

Has anybody ever pruned African daisies or other annuals? My African daisies were looking pretty scraggly this morning. So, I cut them back to about 4 inches tall rather than take out the plants.


My experiment may fail, but I love the colors and I'm hoping I'll get to keep them a little longer.

Hardiness Zone: 8b

By Terri from Southern AZ

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June 12, 20100 found this helpful

Heading To head a small branch or twig back to a bud, cut 1/4 in. above the bud and angle the cut at about 45 degrees, tilted in the direction the bud is pointing. A new branch will grow from the bud in the same direction. Use bypass pruning shears with a hook and blade to make the closest, most precise cuts on branches up to 3/4 in. dia.

Rejuvenating: It's possible to restore a neglected, overgrown shrub by cutting all the branches 4 to 8 in. above the ground. Use a pruning saw, which cuts on the pull stroke, on branches larger than 1 1/2 in. dia. The tapered end helps you work the saw into tight spaces, and the curve forces the wood into the teeth, which makes cutting easier and faster.

Thinning: Selectively cutting the oldest branches to the ground opens the center of the shrub to light and promotes new growth. Young, vigorous wood produces the most flowers.

These photographs show a dormant shrub before and after pruning. You can also thin by cutting a branch back to a side branch.

Use loppers on stems up to 1 1/2 in. dia. Their long handles increase leverage and help you reach into densely branched shrubs.

Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) grows strongly upright with many slender stems that slowly form broad clumps. Prune only to head back any wayward stems, and periodically remove the oldest stems.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) requires annual pruning to control size and blooms, and to encourage fruit. It's best to rejuvenate annually by cutting all stems to a few inches above the ground. Another option is to cut one-third of oldest branches to the ground each year.

Peegee hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) can be a multistemmed shrub or trained as a tree by gradually pruning to a single stem. The canopy of the tree may need occasional thinning. On shrubs, cut one-third of the growth to the ground yearly. Rejuvenate by cutting all stems a few inches above the ground.

Common butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) responds very well to heavy annual pruning by producing fewer, but larger, blooms. Cut back one-third of the oldest stems or prune all stems to within 8 in. of the ground, especially if winter dieback occurs. Common butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) responds very well to heavy annual pruning by producing fewer, but larger, blooms. Cut back one-third of the oldest stems or prune all stems to within 8 in. of the ground, especially if winter dieback occurs.

Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia) should be pruned minimally each year, just enough to ensure strong new growth. Cut a few of the oldest stems to the ground. Take care not to injure new shoots emerging from the ground.

Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) maintain a full, balanced form when a few of the oldest stems are pruned above ground level each year. Also remove suckers and narrow, weak shoots at the base of the plant. Prune spent blooms to encourage profuse flowering.

Forsythia becomes a tangled mess unless pruned each year. To maintain its naturally graceful, arching form, cut one-third of the oldest stems on established plants to the ground. You can rejuvenate an overgrown shrub by cutting all of it stems several inches above the ground.

Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) thrives with annual pruning. Cut most of the stems that have blossomed back to the ground. Cut a few low on the stem where new growth is sprouting. They will fill out the base of the shrub.

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Pruning Tips

Pruning Tips Continued

Where to Find It

Deciduous flowering shrubs require so little attention that most homeowners don't think about pruning them until they've become an overgrown tangle of stems. Then, pruning becomes an all-afternoon affair. But besides promoting healthy growth and controlling plant size and shape, a few minutes of pruning each year results in a benefit you might not suspect: a big increase in the number of flowers and ornamental fruit  the primary reasons we grow these plants. We're not talking backbreaking labor. "You should be able to keep up with annual maintenance pruning by spending 5 to 10 minutes with each shrub," says Denny Schrock, extension specialist at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

When to Prune

The best time to prune depends on when the shrub forms its flower buds and when those buds open. Flowering shrubs fall into two categories: spring-blooming and summer-blooming.

Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, develop flower buds in the summer that will not open until the following year. Prune them immediately after flowering. If you prune too late, you will remove next year's developing buds.

Summer-flowering shrubs, such as rose-of-Sharon and oakleaf hydrangea, develop their buds during the spring growth period and the buds open into flowers that summer. Prune these shrubs during the dormant season  in late winter or early spring before the buds show green.

Set Goals

Before you make any pruning cuts, decide what you want to accomplish. With flowering shrubs, the goal is to enhance the natural form of the plant by selectively pruning branches. When done successfully, maintenance pruning won't be apparent at all.

Maintain health

Remove dead, damaged or diseased branches whenever you notice them. Prune out branches that cross and rub against other branches as well. Always cut back to the ground or to a live bud or branch to prevent further dieback.

good luck.

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June 16, 20100 found this helpful

They are a hardy plant, pruning back is good. helps with fresh growth. I have in my garden too. DEAD HEADING is what that is called. Don't be afraid to trim them. Make sure you use a clean sharp scissors to not get scabby cuts or diseases introduced.

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June 16, 20100 found this helpful

That's exactly what I did. They appear not to have minded at all. But they sure looked scalped the other day. I wondered if I hadn't gone overboard with my garden shears. Thanks.

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