Fall is upon us once more and with the sunny days we have ahead of us, many gardeners and home owners turn their sights on fall clean-up in their yards. Its fine to rake up your leaves, and hopefully compost them, pull faded annuals, plant spring bulbs and tidy up your yard. With pruner in-hand many of us can make the mistake of pruning way to late in the season. The following is a guide to what you should not prune in the fall. Have you ever wondered why your flowering shrubs don't flower, it may be you pruned it at the wrong time of year. Many shrubs bear flower buds for the following season on last year's wood, or "old wood" as its called. So if you prune now your are cutting next year's flowers off. Did you know that if you prune to late in the season you stimulate new growth, which will not have time to harden off before the first frost, which will be coming soon to our neck of the woods. This can weaken and damage the plant, so its best to leave the pruning until spring. So put down the pruners and save yourself some work and frustration for later. So here are the most common shrubs to just leave alone in the fall. The following information is from an article by Arricca Elin SanSone.
Oakleaf Hydrangea- which has leaves that somewhat resemble an oak tree, is a gorgeous shrub with lovely papery blooms from summer to fall. It also boasts bright autumn color, and some flowers remain intact all year to provide winter interest. But don’t cut oakleaf hydrangeas back like you do other types of hydrangeas, such as panicle hydrangeas, which bloom on new wood. Oakleaf hydrangeas bloom on old wood and never need trimmed except to cut off dead branches that don’t leaf out next spring.
Forsythia- Just when you need color the most after a long winter, this shrub bursts into bloom in early spring. Many types of forsythia can get large and unmanageable, so you may be tempted to hack them back in the fall. However, you’ll remove the buds that form next year’s bright yellow blooms. If your shrub has gotten too big, trim it next spring immediately after it finishes blooming. And next time, plant a new dwarf variety that will stay nice and compact.
Lilac- is a gorgeous, old-fashioned shrub with spikes of fragrant purple, pink or white fragrant flowers in late spring. But if you prune in fall, you’ll chop off the blooms for next year. It should rarely be trimmed except to cut off dead branches. Also, look for new dwarf and re-blooming varieties if you want to plant a new lilac.
Ninebark- This native shrub has a lovely arching shape with green, chartreuse or dark burgundy leaves and tiny pink or white flowers in the spring. It’s actually a shrub you should never prune, except to trim back any dead branches when you see them. Otherwise, leave it be so you don’t destroy its shapely form. A terribly underutilized native shrub, ninebark is named for its numerous layers of bark which peel like birch. White clusters of flowers are followed by red seed heads, giving this plant a long bloom season.
Rhododendrons- have glossy evergreen leaves and gorgeous clusters of flowers in pinks, purples and white in the spring. But if you prune now, you’ll cut off next year’s flowers. If your shrub needs neatened up, trim immediately after the flowers fade in the spring.
Azaleas- also bloom on old wood, with next year’s flowers forming months after the current year’s flowers have died back. Prune only immediately after flowering if you need to shape it.
Weigela- This stunning shrub has gorgeous tube-shaped flowers that pollinators love, and you’ll totally miss out on them next year if you trim them in the fall. You’ve been warned.
Mountain Hydrangea- Like oakleaf hydrangeas, this type of hydrangea doesn’t need (or like) being pruned. While it’s fine to remove dead wood, don’t do it until late spring when the plant has leafed out so you can see what you’re doing.
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Article by Cindy Golia