Proper Pruning for Petunias—Keep them compact and blooming all season.

Petunias are beautiful, quick, and fun to grow. Here’s how to keep them pretty all summer.

Trude visited us the other day. She said, “John, you said you would tell me how to grow a well-shaped petunia, but you never did.”

I reached for the pruning shears and led her over to a nice plant that needed a bit of care. I handed her the camera and then cut a tip from a stem that was getting too long. “It’s sort of like giving the plant a hair cut.

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careful pruning makes the petunia plant stronger

I cut another tip and then another. Trude said, “I usually just cut mine way back in June or July after it gets stringy and stops blooming but it never does well after that.”

I replied, “I like to trim them every three weeks or so—just about when I notice that they are getting straggly. This does several things, it makes the plant more compact and therefore much stronger, it increases the number of leaves that are available to make food for the plant, and it furnishes more and healthier blooms. This sort of pruning also takes care of the need for dead-heading.”

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Give the plant a “haircut.” It will grow out quickly.

I pointed. “When the tips are removed, all of the growth that is developing on the stem will begin to grow out and develop. With good care, this growth happens quickly and the plant will be back in full bloom in a week or two.”

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cutting the tips will allow this new growth to take off and grow

Trude reached in and removed a dead bloom, “I always go through and remove all of these,” she said. She showed me the dead bloom.

“You didn’t get the ovary,” I replied. She looked at me with a question asked by raised eyebrows.

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merely pulling off the dead bloom doesn’t do the job. You must get the ovary containing developing seeds

I thought for a moment, “Here’s the concept,” I began…

This plant is an annual. It seems to know that it has only one season to grow and reproduce so it makes lots of blooms. When these blooms have been pollinated and when the ovaries are full of developing flower seeds, the plant’s chemical sensors relay that its job has been done. When the plant has made plenty of seeds, it doesn’t see a need for more. It’s sort of like a lady who had several children but wanted a daughter. She tried one more time and got twin boys. She said, “It’s time to stop.”

I pinched off a flower and set it in her hand. “Look closely at the lump at the bottom of the flower. This is the ovary where the seeds are formed. If you just remove the flower and not the ovary, you haven’t really accomplished anything.”

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The petunia bloom showing developing seed pot (ovary).

I finished cutting the tips from the plant. “If you just cut the tips carefully, you will accomplish the task of dead-heading and shape the plant at the same time.”

Here is the plant after I practiced proper petunia pruning procedures:

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A well-trimmed petunia plant will grow out quickly and produce many fore flowers

“To keep the petunia growing strongly, I like to give it lots of light and to feed it every couple of weeks with a well-balanced plant food. If your plant is in a Mother’s Day hanging basket, you may wish to put it in a larger container to give the roots plenty of room to grow.”

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Your petunia basket will grow better and longer if it is transferred to a larger pot

You may also want to read my article titled “The basics of pruning.”

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Pruning and Shaping Techniques for Trees and Shrubs

Every year when the first cool front of October rolls in I get lots and lots of questions about pruning their landscape and house plants. For years I have enjoyed shaping plants while picturing what they will look like next year or after several years have passed.

This week I have gone into my daunting list of past articles on pruning to review. Here are a few of the links. I hope they help.

 

 

 

Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out.

Using Bonsai techniques to prune and shape overgrown shrubs and trees in the landscape.

 

Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai

I got a text message the other day saying that the Japanese maples needed pruning. I had been expecting this so I shifted my schedule around, sharpened my Felco pruning shears, grabbed my camera and headed out.

 

 

Pruning an Overgrown Topiary

I really enjoy creative pruning.

My friend Tommy called me the other day. It seems that we had planted a large yaupon holly tree in his front yard a number of years ago and I shaped it into a topiary form. Tommy has kept it pruned for a number of years but now he is getting too old to want to get on the ladder any more.  Notice the wording—not “too old to get on the ladder”, but “too old to want to get on the ladder.”

 

 

 

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

February Jobs For the Winter-Weary Gardener

If you’re knee-deep in snow can spring be far behind? The snow went away, the sun came out and we got busy. It’s time to get things done. Nelson Magee likes for his yaupon hollies to look good all the time. They were getting a bit shaggy.

Normally neatly kept yaupon holly needs attention in February

Normally neatly kept yaupon holly needs attention in February

We practice a modified version of “cloud pruning” in this yard and sometimes the growth gets pretty tight. This tightness keeps the light from entering the growth canopy which, in turn, forces all of the growth to the outside of the plant causing the inside stems to weaken. Every year or two I like to prune all the way to ugliness and open things up to let the light shine in. I guess that’s sort of what we need to do for our psyche as the end of winter approaches—Let some light shine in.

The yaupon holly is pruned in a manner that will allow light to the inside

The yaupon holly is pruned in a manner that will allow light to the inside

The pruning will grow out in a month or two as spring approaches, giving the plants the undulations and smooth curves that are so visually pleasing:

Cloud pruning on yaupon hollies will grow out to nicely shaped contours.

Cloud pruning on yaupon hollies will grow out to nicely shaped contours.

The two snows combined with zero degree weather have caused a bit of damage to the pretty loroetalum plants. Here’s a picture of the damaged plants. They get cut way back—again to let the light shine in. I scraped a bit of bark back from some of the lower trunks and everything is green instead of brown and mushy so the plants should come out all right.

Freeze damage on loropetalums. We need to cut them back so the light can shine in.

Freeze damage on loropetalums. We need to cut them back so the light can shine in.

If you haven’t pruned the Knockout roses they probably look like this, all strung out with dead leaves and dormant growth buds. Those buds need to be exposed. Pruning will help them to emerge when the time is right.

It's time to prune the knockout roses for shape and more blooms

It’s time to prune the knockout roses for shape and more blooms

When pruning the roses, I like to carefully reach in and cut just above a dormant bud. This gives strength and compactness to the plant. The more care I take, the more the job stays away from the bloody realm of self sacrifice.

Pruning the knockout rose. Be careful of the thorns!

Pruning the knockout rose. Be careful of the thorns!

Oh, yes—things to do in February—I need to finish up and make it to The Last Stop Gift Shop in Rome, Georgia for Dekie Hicks’ book signing (She happens to be my wonderful wife). Her book of poetry, “These for Me are Therapy” was published in January.

Dekie Hicks presents her recently published poetry book, "These for Me are Therapy"

Dekie Hicks presents her recently published poetry book, “These for Me are Therapy”

Here are some links that will help with your winter-time pruning projects

Deadheading and pruning hydrangeas—It says January, but February is all right, too

The basics of pruning—one of my most popular articles ever.

Pruning Knockout roses—This is more for summer time but the concept is good

 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Pruning a Japanese maple

Pruning a Japanese Maple

Japanese maples are special and as such they require special treatment.  They are such cute little trees when we plant them but after a while they get much larger.  It is a matter of personal preference as to whether the tree looks better in its natural state or whether it is more desirable to prune it.  I am generally of the latter opinion. Using modified bonsai techniques on a Japanese maple in its developmental stages makes for a beautiful, well shaped specimen when the tree gets larger. Here is a picture of a tree that I have neglected for a while:

Japanese maple needs shape and definition.  Time to prune

Japanese maple needs shape and definition. Time to prune

A wise old bonsai expert told me long ago that, “One should prune and shape the tree so that a bird can fly through it.” I try to follow that advice and I find it to be helpful for the overall long term health of the tree as well as from a design standpoint.

Looking at a Japanese maple trunk

I want to see the trunk

The trunk of the maple tree is usually very nice and I would like to see a bit of it on this specimen.  I look into the canopy and study the tree to see what should be removed.  All cuts are made carefully and followed by standing back to study the next move.

There are some larger limbs that I will remove to open up the tree canopy. These cuts are made one at the time.

Removing limbs to open up the canopy of the Japanese maple and to accentuate the trunk

Removing limbs to open up the canopy of the Japanese maple and to accentuate the trunk

A lot of small new growth needs to be removed.  Removing these will further open up the view of the trunk and the path of the bird.  It will also allow the trunk to gain strength by not having to share nutrients with the weak new growth.  Some of these twigs will be cut off and others will be just snapped off with a downward jerk.

removing small growth inside the maple canopy

removing small growth inside the maple canopy

When the thinning process is completed, I go through and carefully cut tips from the outer reaches of the tree.  This will encourage branching and a degree of miniaturization.  At this point the job is finished.

The pruned Japanese maple looks like this:

A well pruned Japanese maple

A well pruned Japanese maple

I have a story that lets you know when the job is finished.

My good friend and client, Betty, has about twenty Japanese maples in her yard.  I have been pruning and shaping them over a period of twenty five years.  One time I was shaping one of the trees and a visitor asked, “How do you know when you have cut enough?”

I thought for a few moments and answered, “I keep cutting until Betty is rolling in the driveway screaming. Then I know I have cut enough.”

Here are some related articles:

Creating a topiary,https://johntheplantman.com/2012/02/26/plant-in-the-wrong-place-make-a-topiary/

Tree forming, https://johntheplantman.com/2011/08/14/tree-forming-landscaping-from-the-inside-out/

The basics of pruning https://johntheplantman.com/2010/01/09/pruning-as-an-art-form-the-basics/

Want me to prune your Japanese maple? Contact me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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