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As we inch closer to spring, now is an ideal time to perform rejuvenation pruning. Rejuvenation pruning involves cutting a shrub close to the ground or removing at least one-third of old stalks. Although this may seem like an extreme thing to do, this is a great way to bring new life to your existing landscape.
So why rejuvenate a shrub instead of continuing to tip prune it? After several years without pruning or only shearing, shrubs can begin to look misshapen and have an excess amount of older, unproductive wood. You may also begin to notice fewer flowers and leaves or larger dead stalks. By cutting a shrub to the ground or thinning out interior stalks, you essentially “reset the clock” and allow for future growth. The end result is a smaller, younger plant that may flower more profusely and may more appropriately fit in the landscape. For shrubs that are typically grown for their colorful stems, such as red-twig dogwood, rejuvenation pruning forces the growth of new stems with a much brighter color.
An added benefit to rejuvenation pruning is that you can easily inspect the base of the plants. If there is a weed blocking fabric up to the base of the plant, take the time to cut it back. Landscape fabric can interfere with new growth and prevent water and nutrients from entering the critical root zone.
Rejuvenation is typically done only every three to five years, usually when the shrub starts to look overgrown or gangly. Cutting off all the stems and leaves is a huge stressor to the plant so it’s best not to do it too often or you’ll risk weakening the shrub, making it more susceptible to disease and pests.
Special Note – Spring is NOT the time to rejuvenate shrubs that flower on old wood such as lilacs and forsythia. These should be pruned after they are done flowering.
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