Caring for your shrubs can be a deceptively simple process, especially if you watch a professional handling the job. The process can look so easy, that it's hard to imagine the work that goes into it.
But, there is actually more to caring for shrubs properly, and most of it has to do with knowing what’s going on beneath the surface.
Protecting shrubs from pests year round
Your shrubs are a perfect gathering place for garden pests of all varieties: there’s plenty of food, water, nutrients, and shade from the heat of the summer sun. It’s like a tourist attraction for bugs.
To ensure that these unwanted visitors don’t do irreparable damage to your ornamental shrubs, a strategic schedule of defensive shrub care techniques is required throughout the year:
- In early spring, a systemic insecticide should be applied, reducing insect populations for the growing season.
- Later in the spring, a fertilizer, micronutrients, and further insect management will help promote healthy growth.
- In the summertime, fertilizer and insecticide maintenance helps to keep pests under control while promoting growth through the hottest months.
- And finally, in the fall, an application of horticultural oil to the underside of the leaves will prevent pests that spend the winter from causing any harm.
Pruning the right way every time
Pruning and trimming your shrubs not only keeps them looking their best and enhances your landscape dramatically, it’s also good for the plant and promotes healthy growth.
The first key to proper pruning is to understand the basics of how a plant grows:
- The soft, green, end of a branch where the growth occurs (the terminal bud) also controls how smaller branches diverge from the main branch (the lateral buds).
- Therefore, if you wish to stop a branch from growing longer, prune the terminal bud and that will stimulate branching growth beneath where you have pruned.
- If you wish to allow a branch to grow longer before branching off, preserve the terminal bud but prune the lateral buds.
In addition to the basic terminal/lateral bud growing system that will determine the mature shape of the shrub, there will be many offshoots of the plant that are of no value as they don’t fit into the pattern. Small vertical twigs (called water sprouts), stubby ends of branches that stopped growing prematurely, and bunchy growth caused by previous pruning efforts can all be removed to allow the plant to focus its resources on the branches that matter.
Any branches that have grown too close together, causing destructive rubbing or robbing each other of sunlight, should be thinned as well to give the plant the best chance to thrive.
Finally, pruning the remaining terminal and lateral buds strategically to keep the shrub looking its best will also help it to make the most efficient use of water and soil nutrients throughout the growing season. For most plants, early spring, before growth starts, is the best time to prune. However, some spring flowering shrubs do better to be pruned immediately after they bloom.
Watering and fertilizing to keep shrubs healthy
Just like your lawn, your shrubs need water and fertilizer on a proper schedule to look and grow their best. If you’re like most Northwest Florida home owners, you have some sort of sprinkler or irrigation system set up for watering your grass throughout the growing season. But does the irrigation system effectively water your ornamental shrubs as well?
A good option many homeowners use is a soaking hose (a specialized garden hose with tiny holes along its surface that allow water to seep out over a long period) snaked around the roots of shrubs in a bed near the house or along a driveway. These hoses can be interconnected and buried beneath mulch to hide them from view, then turned on and off either manually or via a timer to ensure your shrubs are getting adequate water.
Fertilizer is also important for the growth and health of shrubs if you want them to thrive throughout the summer. Each plant is different and will require different compositions and/or amounts of fertilizer, which can be handled by a shrub care expert you trust.
By following these expert tips for shrub and plant care, you can ensure that your lawn and your shrubs will look their best throughout the year. To find our more, schedule a free lawn evaluation today.