Knowing when to prune is just as important as knowing how to prune. To ensure proper plant response after pruning, be aware of the flowering and fruiting habits of the plants. As a general rule, plants that flower before July 1 should be pruned immediately after flowering. When flowers fade and are no longer showy, it is time to remove the spent flowers (if fruit is not desirable) and shape the new growth that will mature and develop flower bud set for the following spring. These plants develop flower buds on the previous season's wood. Pruning in July will promote shoot growth and allow time for the flower buds to develop for next year's flowering. If pruning is delayed, any pruning will remove potential flowers for the next season. Examples of these plants include azaleas, forsythias, plums, cherries, weigela, mock orange and oak leaf hydrangea.
Plants that bloom after July 1 should be pruned in late winter or early spring before growth starts. These plants develop flower buds in early spring on the current season's growth. Summer-flowering plants include crape myrtle, rose-of-sharon, vitex, butterfly bush and some hydrangeas.
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