It seems the garden season has barely begun and already plants are crowding each other. So out comes my pruning shears and by-pass pruner. Pinch and prune can refer to a variety of techniques including pruning, deadheading, pinching stems or buds, or cutting back leggy plants to shape, form and trim. It is usually species-specific and based on common sense. Don’t worry about hurting your plants by experimenting.
Useful tools include by-pass pruners, pruning scissors, and hand-held shears. Avoid anvil-type pruners that can crush stems. Different techniques call for specific tools, find the one that works for you and your plants.
Deadheading is the removal of old or spent flowers and is beneficial to most herbaceous ornamentals. Seed production can drain a plant’s energy and cause foliage to deteriorate. Deadheading can promote vegetative and root growth rather than seed production. By deadheading you can prolong bloom periods, initiate a second smaller bloom, improve overall appearance, and prevent self-seeding. Some examples of species that benefit from deadheading are: Daylilies, Hostas, Lady’s Mantle, and Lambs Ear.
Cutting back refers to pruning a plant to renew its appearance or encourage a new flush of growth or flowering, control its height or flowering time. Pinching can accomplish the same objective. If you travel for several weeks, you can cut certain plants by one third to delay bloom time until you get back home. Examples: Dianthus, Candy Tuft, Moss Phlox, Catmint, Geranium Amsonia, Baptisia, Achillea, Aster, Mums, Sedum, Joe Pye Weed.
Pinching allows for experimentation and usually involves removing only the growing tips. Generally do this early in the growing season because it will delay bloom time. Examples: Sedum, Shasta daisy, Joe Pye Weed, Aster, Artemisia.
Thinning can prevent disease, create sturdier stems, and increase the size of flowers. It can often help to increase air circulation to help prevent powdery mildew. Use this on: Aster, Delphinium, Mondarda, Phlox, Bulgeweed, Lambs Ear, and Lady’s Mantle.
Disbudding involves removing side buds so that the plant’s terminal bud produces larger flowers on a longer stem. Removing the terminal bud will cause the side buds to produce smaller but more flowers; it can also eliminate the need for staking. Examples: Mums, Carnations, Pinks, Dahlias, Peonies.
Deadleafing removes individual dead leaves to improve appearance. Examples: Elijah Blue grass in spring, Lady’s Mantle in summer, and Hellebores (Lenten Rose) in the spring.
A great source of information on all these techniques is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust, Timber Press, 2006.
Click Here for a cheat sheet you can keep in your garden journal.
This post was written by Sue Reinardy (UW-Extenstion Master Gardener Volunteer) originally posted on GardenTrueNorth.com .
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