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Summer Shrub Care

The dog days of summer are upon us. I’ve never taken the time to research where that term came from, but I suspect that it refers to the way our furry friends find a cool, shady place to lie down and rest on these hot, humid days. We humans could take a page from the canine playbook and do the same.

Even the most ambitious, conscientious gardeners should take some time and step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Nothing would be happier if you did than your ornamental shrubs. This is because when there’s nothing better to do, many gardeners seem to gravitate to the pruners and start cutting back the shrubs.

If you feel the need to do something for your shrubs in the summer, might I suggest picking up the hose instead of the pruners. Shrubs can always use a drink of water especially in the heat we’ve been experiencing. But they would prefer to not be pruned in this weather. The exception is dead or broken branches. They should be removed anytime you see them.

You see only what’s going on to the outside of the shrub but there’s serious, life sustaining functions taking place beneath the surface. For example, next year’s buds (flower and leaf) are forming in the live tissue beneath the bark. They’ll appear in the fall, overwinter in a dormant state and break in spring. We caution you not to prune flowering shrubs until after they bloom in spring but that caution really begins now.

If you didn’t get a chance to rein in the unrestrained growth of spreading shrubs in the spring, resist the urge to do it now. When you remove a significant amount of foliage from a heat stressed shrub, it goes into survival mode. This condition will be noticed by insects and diseases looking for easy prey and a shrub in survival mode won’t offer much resistance. Not only is the shrub weakened from the heat and, possibly, dehydration but you’ve left the door open for pests to walk right in the open wounds caused by pruning.

Painting pruning cuts won’t help either. That was proven, decades ago, to exacerbate the problem. The pests can get there before the paint brush.

The bottom line is that everything in nature has its season and summer is not the season for pruning shrubs.

One comment on “Summer Shrub Care

  1. People still want to paint pruning wounds?!

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