Hand Pruning in Palm Beach Landscapes

Hand Pruning in Palm Beach Landscapes

By Pamela Crawford

Hand pruning is essential to maintain the appearance of most plants (some hedge plants are exceptions), particularly flowering plants in Palm Beach landscape designs. The number one mistake made with flowering plants is to continually cut off the tips of the plants, which keeps them from flowering. Perennials and woody shrubs require occasional, deep cut-backs, as opposed to frequent tip-cutting.  I have developed detailed trimming instructions for each plant I use, and publish that information in my books.

When to trim: Each plant has its own optimal trim time, which is noted in my books. Generally, trim immediately after flowering in Palm Beach landscape designs. For plants that bloom in the winter, trim in the summer. Trim summer bloomers as soon as they stop flowering, generally in fall. Plants recover from cut-backs faster in the summer months, so plants that bloom all the time, like shrimp plants, should be trimmed in the summer.

How much to trim: Each plant has its own tolerances, so check my books for specifics. Generally, most shrubs survive and thrive from hard cut-backs in the summer in the Palm Beach landscape. It is possible to kill a plant from over-cutting, especially if all the leaves are removed. This is more likely in winter than summer.

Three steps to start:

1. Cut out any dead branches.

2. Inspect the plant carefully, looking for crossed branches. If you find crossed branches, visualize what the plant would look like without the least important of them. Remove it, if possible.

3. If two branches are growing parallel to each other, remove the weakest.

The structure of the plant is now defined. Proceed with trimming the rest of the plant. Avoid a boxy shape unless the plant is a square hedge. Think round! In natural plantings, curves are more pleasing to the eye than squares. Follow the shape of a dome when trimming, with the outside branches shorter than the middle, inside branches. Cut the branches at about a 45 degree angle.

Most plants send out two to three new shoots at each cut. This means you can double or triple the fullness of a shrub by trimming it.

Stagger-cutting versus hard cut-backs:  For years I recommended hard cut-backs on shrubs at least once a year in  Palm Beach landscape designs.  This process rejuvenates the plant but, also results in a month or two of looking at sticks. I still recommend this method for plants that bloom seasonally, like firespike. It is so easy to cut it way back after it stops blooming, and you do not miss any blooms because the plant does not bloom during that part of the year anyway. But, for plants that bloom all the time, like shrimp plants and pink angelwing begonias, I now stagger-cut, which keeps them full and blooming all the time. Simply cut the tallest branches to the ground two or three times a year, leaving the rest of the shrub intact. It is simple, fast, and very effective.

This article is taken from:

“Easy Gardens for South Florida” by Pamela Crawford. © 2001  Color Garden Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, on the internet, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.