Nothing can get a gardener more excited than those first blooms of spring! When the blooms are gone it means summer is just around the corner. It also means it is time to prune those early spring bloomers. Pruning too late, or too early in some cases, you will most likely cut off the dormant buds, causing no flowers for you to enjoy the following spring.

As a rule, prune spring-flowering shrubs in the summer and summer-flowering                      shrubs in the spring.

Why? You may ask. Shrubs that bloom in spring to early summer, such as azaleas, lilacs, forsythia, and magnolias, develop flower buds in summer for the following spring. Pruning in fall, winter, or spring will remove their flower buds. Prune these plants soon after the blooms have faded to get the best display of flowers the following year.

Tools

Make sure you have the proper tools. Hand held pruners or loppers are best. Make sure your tools are sharp and clean. Dull blades make pruning more difficult and can crush or tear the stems. Dirty tools can spread unwanted diseases.

Pruning

How far back you prune azaleas and other early bloomers is really about your preference for size and shape. Older plants that have outgrown their surroundings may need to be pruned drastically. You can prune plants down to 12″ above the ground to encourage fresh new growth.

A simpler pruning strategy is applying the “Three D’s”: Remove any parts that are Dead, Diseased, or Damaged. This kind of pruning can be applied at any time during the season.

Deadheading

At the very least, deadhead spent blooms. This will ensure they put all their energy into creating flower buds to be enjoyed the following year. By doing so, you will also prevent disease, since our rainy weather in the PNW can cause dead blooms to mold.

After pruning or dead heading, it’s a good idea to feed your plants. Either by mulching or with Espoma Organic Azalea Tone.