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Southwest Gardening > Blog Page > Seasonal Gardening > Spring > Severe Pruning Brings New Life to Overgrown Shrubs

Severe Pruning Brings New Life to Overgrown Shrubs

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Large, overgrown Texas sage shrub (Leucophyllum species)

Do you have large shrubs in your landscape that have outgrown their space? Or maybe bushes filled with old, woody growth that have seen better days? If so, the photo above may look familiar to you. Thankfully, in many cases, severe pruning can bring new life to overgrown shrubs.

As the branches of flowering shrubs begin to age, they become woodier and might start to produce less foliage and fewer flowers. With many types of shrubs such as bougainvillea, dwarf oleander, lantana, orange bells, and Texas sage — severe pruning often is the best solution.

Why? Because pruning gets rid of woody, unproductive branches and stimulates new growth that will produce attractive foliage and increased blooms.

Spring is the best time to do this type of pruning, for the shrubs mentioned earlier, shortly after the threat of freezing temperatures is over. Using the overgrown Texas sage pictured above as an example, here is how to do it:

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Severely pruned shrubs

Using loppers or a pruning saw, severely prune back shrubs to 1 to 2 feet tall and wide.

This type of pruning looks severe, but this is what you want to see; all the unproductive growth is gone, and new growth should soon follow.  I like to think of it as “spring cleaning” in the garden.

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Here are the same shrubs 8 weeks later

Within two months, lush new growth appears.

Here is an excellent example of how severe pruning can “rejuvenate” summer-blooming plants when done in spring. It’s essential to avoid severe pruning earlier in the year, which can delay regrowth or put the plant in danger of significant damage from frost.

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Four months after pruning

Attractive new foliage and increased flowering is the result of severe renewal pruning.

Just a few months later, the results of this type of pruning are quite dramatic and show how pruning has transformed these Texas sage shrubs from plants filled with old, woody branches into shrubs filled with lush new growth.

It’s important to note that not all flowering shrubs respond well to severe pruning. If in doubt, reach out to your local cooperative extension service for guidance. In some cases, shrubs don’t recover from severe pruning. When this happens, it often is due to factors such as age or poor condition of the bush. Rest assured that even if you hadn’t pruned it severely, the shrub wouldn’t have survived for long if left alone. If you don’t see regrowth within eight weeks, then you can replace the  shrub with a new one.

Here is another example:

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Trailing purple and white trailing lantana

Both trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) and bush lantana (Lantana camara) respond well to severe pruning every couple of years, which prevents a build-up of unproductive woody growth that lantanas tend to accumulate over time. In this photo, trailing lantana has been pruned back to 6 inches tall in early spring.

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Purple and white trailing lantana several months after severe pruning

As you can see, the response of fast-growing, summer-blooming plants is significant.

This type of pruning can be done every few years as needed to keep shrubs healthy and vibrant. Another use for major pruning is to rehabilitate flowering shrubs that are excessively pruned into formal shapes resembling “balls,” “cupcakes” and “squares.” Afterward, they can be allowed to grow into their natural form.

So, do you have any overgrown shrubs that need to be rejuvenated?

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