Can’t Cut This

It is the season to start putting our gardens to bed. Plants that are beginning to look bedraggled need a good cutting. I know it’s hard to do sometimes but cutting back plants like hostas and lilies allow them to send all their energy to the roots. Strong roots equal strong plants. However, not everything should be cut pack. A hint we share with our customers is to at the stem. If the plants have a woodier stem, then wait to prune them in the late winter or early spring. Shrubs such as Roses, Hydrangeas, Rhododendrons, Lilac, Forsythia, and Spirea are some you should wait to cut back.

In late February, or after all the freezes are complete and the sun is warming up our temperatures, and life is slowly starting to fill the outside world it is time to walk through our gardens and make them beautiful again. Pruning is one of the many checklist items after our freezes are complete.  Pruning encourages new growth.

But wait, there’s more! I would like to describe how to prune each plant mentioned above. (see more drop down)



Roses shouldn’t be cut back until roughly late February, cutting them in the fall will encourage new growth to start. That’s the opposite of what we want to happen in that time of year. We cut roses back by making cuts at a 45-degree angle. Remove all dead and crossing branches. Branches that cross will become dense areas not allowing air to keep the rose bushes dry. You can cut roses bushes back to about half their size if you would like.


Woody Plant, Hydrangea


These are truly low maintenance bushes with the ability to become large and in charge. We all love the sight of those big hydrangeas, and it’s fun to play with the soil and make them change color. It’s okay to leave hydrangeas alone and just clip away the parts that are damaged or dying. You need to know that hydrangeas bloom on old growth so be careful where you snip.


These shrubs may need to be pruned to thin out the blooms. It will get so many flowers that clipping some away will keep the plant happy. It’s all about branch structure with Rhododendrons, and you will start trimming these by looking for old decaying branches. Once the damaged branches have been removed carefully cut at the growth joints be careful here, new blooms grow on old growth.

Cutting Back Lilacs


Lilacs are another old-growth bloomer. Careful with these giant fragrant flower clusters and prune them after they bloom. You will know when it’s time to prune because the flower clusters will become less and smaller. Take time to love on your lilac and remove any growth you do not want because of shape or damage. Then just let them grow for next spring.


This wild yellow bloomer will take off. It is a self-propagating plant so watch that the limbs don’t make it to the ground. Once they touch down roots will grow. After spring blooms are finished, you can remove up to 1/3 of the plant if you wish.


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