Pruning Trees & Bushes

  1. The Complete Guide For Taking Care of Boston Ivy

    Boston Ivy On Brick Wall

    Boston Ivy Care

    Many people use boston ivy plants to cover walls, fences, pergolas and more. Being a very low maintenance plant, it is easy to care for but some upkeep is still needed for a beautiful looking vine.

    Planting Boston Ivy

    When choosing a location it is best to find an area that is sunny and has good soil. These conditions will help get better results with the plant growing faster and healthier. Boston ivy should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant them closer together if you want faster coverage on a wall or trellis. Boston Ivy should be planted 12 inches away from the wall to allow the roots more room to grow. The best time to plant Boston ivy is spring or fall. This is a hardy plant that will be able to grow even if planted in the summer; however, will need plenty of water and well drained soil.

    General Boston Ivy Care

    Boston Ivy Growing on Building

    Sunlight - Boston ivy can take a wide range of sun exposure, from full sun to partial sun, but it does best in full sun.

    Watering - These plants should be well-watered when first planted in order to get established. Once the plants get going, there is no need to worry about watering unless there is a severe drought.

    Mulching - Use mulch to help conserve moisture for the plants. This helps prevent weeds from growing around the vines and protects the roots in the winter.

    Fertilizing - Fertilizing is not necessary but feel free to use all-purpose granular fertilizer in the spring. Don't overdo it since too much could hurt the plants.

    Winter Care- The main thing for caring for Boston Ivy in the winter is pruning. There is more information about this below. It is best to prune in late winter once the leaves have fallen off and the plant has gone dormant.  

    Pruning Boston Ivy

    Boston Ivy Growing on the Fence

    The vines will grow aggressively if given the right soil, water, and sun conditions. Sometimes it is necessary to trim these plants back to a more desirable size, especially around doors and windows. The best time to prune Boston Ivy is in the winter. Even though this is a very tough plant, you can prune anytime during the year if you are careful not to trim too much. If you want to remove Boston Ivy, be careful not to rip the vines off of walls. This could damage the wall, take off the paint, or remove chunks of wood as well. To do this without damaging anything, first cut the vines off at the base of the plant and let the vines die, then the vines should come off the walls easily and without damaging anything. You will also want to kill the roots. To do this naturally, we recommend using white vinegar, but be careful to put the vinegar only on what you want to kill.

    Why is Boston Ivy Famous?

    You may have heard about Boston Ivy, but do not know why or in what context. The Ivy League was named after this plant and refers to the vines found on buildings at Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth colleges in the Boston area. The Chicago Cubs baseball field, Wrigley Field, has also helped make this plant widely known. The outfield brick walls are covered with Boston Ivy for a truly unique stadium. [Boston Ivy Growing on Wrigley Field Brick Wall Photo Credit to jimcchou on Flickr

    Read more »
  2. Wisteria Care

    You've purchased a Blue Chinese Wisteria Tree, or an Amethyst Falls Wisteria Vine, and are now looking into how to maximize the blooms of this plant. Follow this simple guide to best care for your wisteria plant.

    Selecting a Location

    For best results, your wisteria should be planted in well-drained soil, and should receive a minimum of six hours of full sun. Be sure to have sufficient space for the full canopy to develop - 15 feet minimum is ideal. You may need to provide a stake for the tree for the first few years until the trunk can support the weight of the canopy. The vine requires support to grow up on- a sturdy wood or metal structure is best.

    Cut those Branches Back! - Pruning Wisteria

    Wisteria requires pruning twice a year - once in the summer after blooming, and once in the winter. Keep in mind that wisteria blooms on wood that is at least two years old - so don't be afraid to prune hard. In the summer, after the beautiful flowers have faded, prune the branches back, so six to eight inches remain on each branch. Pruning that amount off will encourage branching to develop further, increasing the number of blooms the next season. Remove any shoots that are growing at the base of the plant you do not want. Lower shoot pruning will most likely need to be done every year. Come winter, prune the branches down to about three to five buds. Reducing the branch length will force the energy in the spring into creating flowers, and you will have a prolific flowering season. Remove any long shoots that may have formed after the summer pruning. Since the foliage has dropped and you can better see the structure of the plant, this pruning will be easier than the summer pruning. The flower buds that form in the summer will be what produce blooms the following spring. Make note of this fact and make sure that you do not remove or damage all of the buds. Otherwise you may stifle next season's blooms. Root pruning is optional - it can help further develop the root system of the plant, but is not required. If you choose to root prune, take a sharp shovel and plunge it into the soil. Don't tip it taking it out, but instead go straight in and straight out. Make a series of slices into the root mass around the entire plant for best results.

    Feeding your Wisteria - Fertilization

    Nitrogen fertilizer is not needed - wisterias are a legume plant, and can produce its nitrogen as it develops. In fact, adding nitrogen fertilizer can decrease flowering, as it helps the plant produce leaves, not flowers.

    Aunt Dee Wisteria FlowerAunt Dee Wisteria Flower

    It's Not Blooming! - Trouble Shooting

    If your wisteria is not blooming, it is most likely an environmental issue. Check to see that your plant is getting at least six hours of direct light during the day - that is the absolute minimum wisteria requires for blooming. If it is not, see if you can increase the time by pruning other plants. Temperature is another factor that may negatively impact blooming. If a late frost comes before blooming, the buds may be damaged and will not flower. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to correct this issue except wait for the next season. If you know a late frost is coming, you can cover smaller plants with sheets to help protect them. If you have added a significant amount of nitrogen fertilizer to your wisteria, it may be encouraging it to produce leaves instead of flowers. Wisteria does not require nitrogen fertilizer - they can create their nitrogen in the soil, much like beans do. If your plant is young, it may not be mature enough to flower. If after two to three years of being planted in the ground, and it still is not blooming, check to make sure the environmental conditions are correct. Enjoy your wisteria and it's beautiful flowers!

    Read more »
  3. Pruning Peach Trees for Larger Fruit

    Peach Tree

    Gardeners often fall into one of two categories: either they LOVE pruning time every year ("It's cathartic!") or they HATE pruning time every year ("I think that tree can wait till next year."). Unfortunately, it is part of the deal when you plant fruit trees. All fruit trees, but especially peach trees, need some coddling when it comes to pruning time.

    Pruning young peach trees opens up the tree so that the sun can reach the fruit (important to good fruit color) and allows air to circulate (helps avoid pests and diseases). Too much shade on the lower branches can kill the growing peach twigs in one season and after a while, no fruiting wood will grow in the lower part of the tree. Thankfully, pruning a peach tree is pretty straight forward. (Follow the same steps when pruning dwarf peach trees.) Here are some steps to remember:

    1. Pruning peach trees is a springtime job. It should happen after the last frost, but before the new growth has started. Pruning peach trees in summer, fall or winter will leave them susceptible to damage from insects, disease and the weather.

    2. Cut out the really vigorous upright growth, these are called "water sprouts". These are the branches that grow straight up into the air off of main branches. You can't miss them. They will grow fruit, but it will be inferior to the rest of the tree. Don't let them suck energy from the good stuff!

    3. Prune out any diseased, sickly or outright dead wood. This is just extra weight the tree doesn't need.

    4. Take out any limbs that are crossing and touching. These limbs rub together and will cause problems down the line.

    5. Remove any old fruit hanging on the tree.

    Don't be afraid to prune peach trees hard. You might be afraid that you are losing some fruit if you do this, and you will be, but the tradeoff is far better quality fruit next year.

    Also, be sure and toss or burn the pruned wood. Don't leave it on the ground by the trees or it could be the source of soil diseases in the future. Lastly, watch your peach tree spacing when planting. They need plenty of air circulation to produce healthy fruit and you need room to get around the tree to pick it!

    For full size trees aim for 20 feet apart. Dwarf peach trees are good with 10 feet. Follow these few steps and you'll be well on your way to a bumper crop of juicy peaches.

    Read more »
  4. Privet Hedge Pruning


    When someone thinks of Privet hedges, one of the first things that come to mind is the University of Georgia's "Between the Hedges" in Sanford Stadium.  So what better source to learn how to care for Privet than the world experts?  We interviewed UGA's very own Kellie Baxter, who is in charge of caring for the Privet hedges in the stadium. First, a little background from Kellie about the hedges themselves.  In 1929, after the completion of our new stadium, it was decided that hedges would make the field look nice. After deciding that roses would not do well, Privet was agreed upon. Ever since that day our Privet hedges have been the stuff of legends. We here at Georgia consider them quite holy and the games that go on between these hedges even more so.


    Here in the South a Privet hedge (or Ligustrum sinense in this specific example) takes a lot of maintenance. During the summer they are trimmed once a week to keep them in shape. With the temperatures here being in the high 90s in the summer and with a sand based field, we water often. That can cause problems without the proper precautions. We put organic matter in the hedges to help with water retention and must fertilize often. We use Harrells Polyon Coated Fertilizer for landscape plants which works well for us. It is a slow release fertilizer that is not activated by water but by heat. We leach out a normal fertilizer very quickly with our heavy watering, but with this releasing in the heat when the plant is growing and needs it most that is not as much of a problem. We help them along twice a year with an organic fertilizer to help build up the soil and the root growth. Our growing season starts really taking off in May. In June, after we have gotten the hedges the height that we want, we will use some growth regulator on them to not only slow them down a little but to make sure they are filling out and getting full.


    We don't usually have many pest problems. We spray once a year for white fly control. Keep in mind that whatever is used on our turf also affects our hedges and vice versa. We really try to use as little chemicals on them as we can to insure that the athletes are safe when the accidental ball or player ends up in our hedges! We use a long gas powered hedge trimmer to trim the hedges and have found that is very important to keep them as sharp as possible to avoid tearing the plants. We have occasionally hand pruned them back to about 12 inches in the early spring to encourage new growth and keep them healthy. (I don't do that often. It is a JOB!) Overall, caring for Privet is easy. It is a plant that will grow to hedge size quickly and doesn't have many health issues. It does require frequent pruning but you will be rewarded by a beautiful hedge!


    To give you some perspective, our hedges are about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We do have a fence hidden in between, which has stopped even the most zealous of fans that are intent on rushing the field! We have had players on opposing teams tear out, urinate on and otherwise try to destroy the hedge! They have not been successful! Our own players have landed in or on the hedges and except for a few holes, they thrive. They have been moved twice. They were moved for the 1996 Atlanta olympics when soccer was played on our field and two  years ago parts were removed for a Jason Aldean concert. Both times the plants survived and never missed a Bulldog season! Over the years, there have been many different people that were caretakers of the hedges. Currently I take care of them and it has been an honor! I have been a dog fan all of my...well, here in the south a lady never tells her age but it has been a long time!

    Read more »
  5. Pruning Blueberry Bushes - How and When To

    Peach Sorbet Blueberry

    Blueberry bushes are enjoying a little renaissance in home gardening. You can readily find them in garden centers and with so many varieties these days, the probability of finding one that grows in your climate is pretty good. They are easy to grow and are so delicious when they're fresh!

    Pruning blueberry bushes is necessary to maintain their health.  However, you must be careful as pruning can directly effect the fruit production of your plant.  Pruning is best done when the bush is dormant, either in the late fall or the early spring.  Spring is often the preferred time because you will be able to see which (if any) branches were damaged through the winter and need to be trimmed.

    Once you have removed the damaged branches, you will want to remove some of the lower growing branches.  You can controll the height by trimming some of the more vigorous upright shoots.  You will also want to thin out some of the older weaker canes.  After these have been trimmed, you can select some of the smaller, thinner (or spindly) branches.

    Tophat Blueberry

    Keep in mind that berries are grown on canes that are at least 1 year old, so any branches you trim will not produce berries.  The more severe the pruning, the less berries you will be able to harvest and the growing season will be shorter.  At the same time, you don't want to skip pruning.  Although mild pruning will lead to a longer harvest and more berries, they will be smaller. If damaged and weak branches go unattended, the quality of the berry will deminish and the bush will be more susceptible to issues like insects and disease that can limit your crop.

    Read more »
  6. Pruning Forsythia

    Forsythia flower cut

    Pruning forsythia provides great benefits to the forsythia plant. Many times forsythia is pruned for cut flowers. Pruning a forsythia plant also helps keep the plant to a bushier growth habit. Pruning forsythia also promoters better flowering. A frequently asked question is, "When is the best time for pruning forsythia?" Pruning in December or January provides branches for forcing.  If some pruning is done when the plant is in bloom it again provides cut flowers for use in indoor arrangements. Additional pruning after flowering encourages better branching and the potential for more flowers in future years.

    Pruning forsythia after flowering is the most widely used method. Cut out about one-third of the old woody growth.  This encourages new young growth, which will supply the next season's flowers. Experts advise that you should be looking for new growth that develops quickly in whip-like form.  If the whip like branches are not trimmed or trained it will ruin the shape of your plant and will result in reduced flowering. So, if any whip-like growth develops, pinch or prune out the tip growth when it is about 15 to 18 inches high. The tip pruning will result in several new growths developing at that point and the plant will become bushier and more prolific in its flowering.

    Please note that an annual forsythia pruning is by no means mandatory. If the form of the forsythia bush is good, you can go several years between prunings. Pruning forsythia when it is easiest to tell the newest branches apart from the older is advised.  Only the older branches will have blooms; the first-year branches won't have any yet, so you have a graphic reminder to avoid them.

    Read more »
  7. Pruning Hibiscus

    Pruning Hibiscus

    Pruning hibiscus is not normally needed for the hardy hibiscus. Actually, these plants are herbaceous perennials, meaning their tops die down to the ground each winter, but new shoots will come roaring back into lush growth when soils warm the following spring. Because the tops die down each year, pruning is generally limited to controlling plant size when it gets too large for its area.

    Pruning the dead material back in the fall is recommended. Prune the dead material back to about 8 to 12 inches. Then, apply a thick layer of mulch over the plant roots, 8 to 12 inches, to keep plant roots from freezing.

    In the spring, remove the mulch and prune the remaining dead plant material to ground level. The tropical hibiscus can be pruned in the spring. The time to prune depends on where you live and the weather you expect. The main precaution is not to prune so that the tender new growth is emerging during a time when frost is likely. This guideline dictates that most pruning be done between late February and August, depending on local conditions.

    If partial or selective pruning is practiced, there is no real drawback to pruning at any time within that period. Complete cutting back of the plant is best done in early spring only.

    Take a good look at the plant to be pruned. Because the new growth will start below any cut you make, you want to plan accordingly. Cutting a few inches off the top is usually not a good idea, as the new growth sprouting off the end of the existing branch will not look quite right. Instead, plan to cut most branches back by about 1/3 or even more, always leaving at least 2-3 leaf nodes (bumps on the stems where leaves once grew) on each branch. The new growth that emerges will be strong and will blend in with the rest of the plant. Pruning hibiscus is not a difficult task.

    One way to go about pruning hibiscus is to cut back the longest branches first, and leave several shorter or side branches for another time. This will assure that you have blooms on this plant both early in summer and later when the new growth comes in. Repeat this process in the following year.

    Read more »
  8. Pruning Cherry Trees

    dead cherry tree branch

    One of the primary problems faced by gardeners when growing cherry trees is that they do not understand how to prune a cherry tree properly.  Pruning cherry trees plays an important role in ensuring proper growth and fruit production. Before growing one, any gardener must fully understand how to prune a cherry tree properly.

    Before understanding how to prune a cherry tree, it is important to know how cherry trees grow. Cherry trees are central leader trees.  This means that there is one main upright trunk, called the leader. All branches will sprout and grow out of this.

    A properly pruned cherry tree should have a scaffold shape. This means that there are branches circling the tree, perpendicular to the leader, and there should be an area of about two feet between the levels to allow for light to reach the lower leaves and fruit.  Pruning cherry trees should be done in the late winter, encouraging the plant to grow more during the growing season.  The first level of branches should begin between twenty-four to thirty-six inches above the surface of the soil. The branches growing out of the central leader should be either weighted down or tied loosely to string to promote outward growth as opposed to vertical growth.

    cherry blossom

    The outward growing branches will produce more fruit and grow less vigorously.  Pruning cherry trees during the summer will inhibit growth, and should be done once the desired size has been reached.  Pruning cherry trees too early in the winter may make the tree vulnerable to bacterial infections.    

    Read more »
  9. Clematis Pruning

    Pruning Clemantis

    Clematis Plant pruning is the most important factor when considering how and when a clematis will bloom. Pruning clematis improperly will never kill the plant, however it will likely delay the bloom. Not pruning the plant at all will allow the plant to bloom, but proper pruning will cause more and longer blooms. All clematis should be cut back the first early spring after planting. After this, the time and amount of pruning depends on the type of clematis being grown.

    Pruning clematis that flower only on the previous year's growth should consist primarily of waiting until blooming is finished in May or June.  At this time, any weak or dead stems should be cut out.  When pruning clematis of this type later than June or pruning too much, will severely limit the amount of blooming in the following year. Clematis pruning of the second group, consisting of varieties that bloom on hardened wood from the previous season and varieties that bloom on both current and previous year's growth, begins in early spring with a light pruning.  When pruning, variations in stem length will produce a better-balanced plant.  Any weak or dead wood should be removed at this time as well. Pruning clematis that bloom only on the current years growth involves the plant being cut back in late February to two strong sets of buds close to the ground on each stem.  This will result in plants that begin a bloom near the base, and have flowers sporadically up the height of the entire plant.

    Read more »
  10. Butterfly Bush Pruning

    Butterflybush Cut Down

    Pruning butterfly bushes is an integral part of maintaining these beautiful flowering shrubs. It is fairly easy to prune a butterfly bush, as they are very tough plants. Butterfly bushes will survive just about any level of pruning they are given at any time of the year. There are, however, pruning techniques that will assure faster growth and better blooms.

    Butterfly bush pruned to ground level

    When the butterfly bush goes dormant, during the winter of zones five and six, is when the most pruning should take place. During this time pruning butterfly bushes should be done all the way to the ground. This will usually take place some time after the first frost, when the above ground parts of the bush appear dead. In zones eight and up, the butterfly bush will be evergreen, and can be pruned to the ground at any time.

    Pruning butterfly bushes in the spring will not kill the bushes. At worst, all that will happen is that the flowers will not appear as soon, because they need to re-sprout. Because butterfly bushes grow so fast, the blooms should reappear within a few weeks.  In colder regions of zone five, a three to six inch layer of mulch should be applied to the butterfly bush after winter cutting in order to help protect the shrub for the coming winter. There is really no wrong way to go about pruning butterfly bushes.  The shrubs are very stable and can take a good deal of stress without any significant side effects.  Butterfly bushes will generally flower of new wood, so cutting them to the ground in winter is often times necessary for the plants to bloom.

    Read more »