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Need help with pruning instructions for spirea.

Posted by scraplolly 3b Canada (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 4, 08 at 17:15

The plant in question is most likely a Spirea--identified on the "name that plant forum." (Linked below)

Species as yet undetermined. I was looking at a description of "Arguta" and it says that the flowers are produced on the previous year's growth. I looked at my bush, which came into flower last week, and that seems right.

The pruning instructions which followed said, "stems should be pruned back in early summer after flowering."

Hmmm. What stems? This year's? Last year's? Without the flowers, how do I know? The old woody stuff with nothing on them...ok. But what about branches with flowers on the back part, but nothing on the front of the branch?

I turned to another book and it said this, in general, about all Spireas:

"with those flowering in spring or early summer, it is necessary either to cut back some of the old shoots in Spring or cut them back hard after flowering."

What exactly does it mean to say "cut back hard"? And if the thing does bloom on "previous year's growth" wouldn't this mean I'd never see any flowers?

Sorry, but I'm quite confused. I've never really pruned it, except to cut out old obviously dead woody stems, but it sure could use some tidying.

I'm starting to get suckers, too, I believe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Naming


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need help with pruning instructions for spirea.

Often when shrubs grow the energy goes to the buds at the growing tip. When you look at your picture you can see how there's a lot happening at the tips - and the stems are just holding it all up.

In amongst all that there will be new sprouts. You can usually tell which they are because the wood is a different colour - often more brown-y than the old wood. That's your 'last year's wood' in the making. That's the wood that will be using summer to create buds for flowers.

I suspect the main reason it says to leave the pruning to spring is so you can also deal with any frost/snow damage.

If you take a look at the old stems you might find little (seriously little) buds along the bare length. They're dormant. However, if the growing tip was damaged - or removed by a pruner - then those buds would get the chemical message to start into growth.

The new wood that they produce will usually be shorter and slimmer than any suckers or sprouts starting from the base. However, they will also produce flowers when the wood is old enough.

If you've decided to have a stockier shrub than the one in the picture then you would cut back the old stems (at least some of them) 'hard' to a height that suits you so they'll resprout from lower down.

You'd leave your new wood to mature and set buds. You'd sacrifice some of your new wood up there on the tips to bring the height of the bush down.

Take a couple of years to do this - part this; part next, so you still get the flowers you enjoy (though perhaps not as many as you'd like.)

It might also be useful to apply a serving of good compost and/or a helping of a general purpose fertiliser to promote the growth of new wood. If you have reliable water over summer do that earlier rather than later. It's vital that the new wood has plenty of time to harden and get set for winter, otherwise the frost will wreak havoc with those juicy sprouts.


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RE: Need help with pruning instructions for spirea.

Thank you. It's dark out now, but I will print this out and take it to the bush tomorrow and see if I can make the distinctions between all the wood bits. I'm sure I won't have a problem. You were very clear. Thanks for telling me to do this over a few years: I tend to go a bit nuts with the pruning shears!


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RE: Need help with pruning instructions for spirea.

If it is one of the smaller varieties, just cut it to your knee every spring, then take out a few of the thickest canes.


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