Shrub Aftercare

To optimize performance, improve plant appearance, and ensure longevity there are a few maintenance activities that gardeners should consider. Most shrubs can be grown successfully with relatively little maintenance, while other shrubs will require more work to keep the in good condition.

It is important to provide sufficient irrigation, particularly the first growing season after planting container grown shrubs. This is especially important for shrubs transplanted in the spring which have not become well established by the warm summer months.

Although most shrubs are not considered to be ‘heavy feeders’, it is important that they are produced with an adequate nutrient supply. Mulching the landscape beds with compost each year often supplies an ample supply of nutrients. In beds covered with bark mulches, it is recommended to fertilize once or twice per year with a general purpose fertilizer. Gardeners commonly apply a controlled release (slow release) fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season or make 2 to 3 applications using water soluble fertilizers throughout the spring and summer months.

Placing 2 to 3 inches of organic mulches (bark chips, pine needles, straw, or slightly decomposed or shredded leaves) around the shrubs will help retain moisture in the soil, decrease the emergence of weeds, and adds organic materials to the soil as they break down. Avoid apply thick layers of mulch against the base of the shrub as this often promotes shallow roots, disease, and pest injury.

Pruning shrubs will help them maintain an aesthetic shape, size, and appearance. The proper time of the year to prune them varies by variety. Shrubs that do not produce showy flowers can be pruned most any time of the year except late summer. Late season pruning softer results in a new flush of growth that may not harden off in time for winter and is likely to become damaged during the winter.

For flowering shrubs, the best time to prune them depends on whether they flower from old wood or new wood. Shrubs that flower on old wood produce flower buds in the year before flowering occurs. It is best to prune these plants just after flowering occurs so that new flower buds can be made on this season’s growth. Shrubs that produce flowers on new wood can be pruned anytime after they flower to just before they flush growth in the spring.

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