How To Prune

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How To Prune

Pruning before new growth and warm weather helps keep shrubs and trees from being susceptible to diseases. You’ll also be getting rid of the old, unsightly branches and blooms from last year and preparing for the fresh, beautiful blooms of the new year.

How to Prune Liriope

The best time to prune Liriope, like the Southern Living Plant Collection's Marc Anthony Liriope and Cleopatra Liriope, is in late winter or early spring before new growth.  You can prune large groups of Liriope using the lawn mower on its highest setting, but be careful not to cut into or below the crown of the plant.  For smaller areas, use hedging shears to cut the foliage down to the crown.

Cut as low as you can without harming the crown as this is where new growth begins. After new growth has emerged, maintain the appearance of the plant by trimming discolored foliage and removing dead flower spikes.

How to Prune Nandinas

Compact selections of nandina, such as Flirt Nandina and Blush Pink Nandina, remain tidy with little or no pruning. Taller, ordinary nandina grows lanky and bare at the bottom over time. Pruning restores a full and compact look. Using hand pruners (never hedge shears), renew neglected clumps by cutting one-third of the main stalks to the ground every year for 3 years.

Maintain a natural appearance by pruning each stalk to a different height, cutting back to a tuft of foliage.  Also, remove old and weak branches to encourage new growth.  Any time of year, cut back a branch or two to use in a flower arrangement or wreath.

How to Prune Loropetalums

One of the several advantages of Southern Living® Plant Collection's Loropetalums is their easy-care growth habit. These low-maintenance shrubs have a compact size that requires very little pruning.  Unlike other loropetalums, Purple Pixie Loropetalum grows only 1 to 2 feet tall by 4 to 5 feet wide.

Even Purple Diamond Loropetalum is more manageable than standard loropetalums which can swallow your house without pruning. The compact Purple Diamond Loropetalum grows to an average size of 4-5 feet tall and wide.

If you choose to prune, you may shape branches that have grown out of place and deadhead flowers to encourage more and longer-lasting blooms.  When shaping, make different size cuts so that the shrub maintains its natural appearance.

How to Prune Annuals and Perennials

When to Prune:

In general, begin pruning after the first display of flowers and stop pruning at the end of the plant's growing season, especially perennials.  The closer you prune perennials to bloom time, the more likely there will be a delay in blooms.  Throughout the growing season, prune liberally to create a compact and lush plant that will generate constant new growth or prune more conservatively if desiring a taller, less-full plant.

Pruning dead and spent flowers, foliage, and stems encourages healthier, fuller plants and more flowers.  Depending on your goal and the condition of the plant, the two types of pruning are "heading" and "thinning."

Types of Pruning: Heading

Heading promotes new blooms and a fuller appearance.  Pinching or cutting off dead and spent flowers and foliage gets rid of the unsightly growth while forcing production of new stems, leaves, and flowers .  For some plants, new flowers will not grow until spent flowers are removed.  When the plant has multiple buds growing along the stems, cut just below spent flowers to create blooms further down the stems.  If the plant has stems with singular flowers, you can cut the stem to the base of the plant.  Heading annuals and perennials will produce more flowers that bloom for a longer period of time, and for perennials, this carries over to the next growing season.

Types of Pruning: Thinning

Thinning greatly improves appearance and flower size, and helps prevent disease.  Shape and reduce the size of over-grown and bulky plants by cutting unwanted stems to the base of the plant or where stems meet.  Typically, it is good to remove up to 1/3 of the stems, especially in over-crowded areas where the foliage is beginning to discolor or die.  If the plant is simply invading the space of surrounding plants in a bed, just cut outside stems to keep the plant in its place.

How to Prune Crapemyrtles

Crapemyrtles are distinctive both for their beauty and for the active debates surrounding their pruning needs. Crapemyrtles do not require pruning and the only reason to prune the shrub or tree is for shaping and thinning. Over-pruning Crapemyrtles will limit their natural growing potential (particularly ones that can grow to a mature height of 15 feet), decrease the number of blooms, and create a weak branch structure. 

You know you're looking at an over-pruned Crapemyrtle when there is no increase in height or blooms over time, and stem branches have grown too long to support the weight of the blooms. Furthermore, Crapemyrtles should never be pruned during the early winter months as the occasional warm week or two may trick the Crapemyrtle into sprouting premature growth and cause frost damage.  The proper time to prune Crapemyrtles is late winter to early spring.

Shaping and thinning Crapemyrtle tree varieties, like the Southern Living Plant Collection's Delta Jazz Crapemyrtle:

    * Remove sprouts from the base and trunk of the tree.

    * Remove side branches that grow below 1/3 of the height of the tree. For example, if the tree is 6 feet tall, remove side branches growing from the ground up to 2 feet or if the tree is 15 feet tall, remove side branches growing from the ground up to 5 feet of the tree.

    * Remove dead branches and branches growing to the inside of the tree, leaving only vertical branches and ones growing outwards from the tree.

    * Cut back the stems that hold the blooms to 6" above the intersection where the stem meets a branch.

In the left picture below, the branches to remove and the stems to cut are shown in red.  The right picture below shows the tree after the pruning cuts.

To learn more about the Southern Living® Plant Collection or to view the entire collection, click here.