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Whack Your Butterfly Bush to the Ground

Woody ornamentals need ­periodic rejuvenation to stay healthy and productive

It’s never too late to whack that buddleia down to the ground, even though it is flushing new growth. One of my butterfly shrubs was getting so large that in early March I cut the stump close to the ground with a chainsaw. Already the new growth is 18 to 24 inches tall with an abundance of young shoots coming from the roots.
    While I was lecturing to a garden club, a member asked me how to prune buddleia. I told her to prune it back as close to the ground as possible. But, she said, her buddleia was putting out new growth. I repeated, Prune it as close to the ground as possible. She turned on her heels and told the person standing behind her that I did not know a damn thing about pruning.

Pinch Your Bedding Plants

Want more flowers on those zinnias and petunias and all your bedding flowers? Give them a gentle pinch. Pruning back the top quarter of each stem will stimulate many more branches to form from the base of the stem and from the crown. However, don’t pinch the tops the same day that you transplant them in the garden. Allow a week to 10 days for the plants to become established before pinching back the tops. This allows the remaining stem to generate more branches than if you had pinched at transplanting time.

    I do. Prune it as close to the ground as possible.
    At a gathering at Upakrik Farm this Easter, friends asked me how to prune forsythia. I informed them that if the plant has not been properly pruned in the past couple of years, now is the time to cut all of the stems as close to the ground as possible. One guest insisted that would kill the plant. I responded that horticulture is a science, not based on intuition. I guided them outside to a forsythia I had pruned just a few days earlier. You should have seen the expression of shock on her face.
    I find interesting the degree of resistance people have when it comes to pruning plants. Many species of woody ornamentals need periodic rejuvenation through proper pruning to keep them healthy and productive. Allowing them to grow without proper pruning often results in a decline because the old stems inhibit the growth and development of new stems from the ground. Forsythia, buddleia, weigela and abelia are members of that group of plants that need to be pruned near the ground to remove the older stems. This allows new stems to grow.
    Believe me. Whack them down.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.