The pruning of a shrub during its formative years will determine its shape and how well it flowers.
In these early years, pruning is best done around the time of leaf fall, so you can judge which are the weakest shoots to remove. This allows the plant to channel all its energy into making strong, worthwhile stems and a vigorous root system to support its growth in the coming years.
After the first two years, pruning of early-flowering shrubs, like the deutzia in this feature, is best done straight after the blooms fade. Depending on the species, that would be any time from early spring (for shrubs like winter-flowering honeysuckle) to early summer (for deutzia and philadelphus).
For summer-flowering shrubs like buddleia, lavatera and potentilla, initial pruning should involve cutting the plant back by a third of its height in autumn, to prevent damage caused by winter gales. Then cut back hard in early spring, just as growth is starting.
Follow this step-by-step guide to the formative pruning of young shrubs.
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Once established, young shrubs like this deutzia will make strong, upright shoots that will create the framework of the plant. These stems will carry flowering shoots next year, and should be retained.
Start at the base of the shrub and remove any thin, weak stems using secateurs. Cut flush to the main stem, taking care not to damage any of the nearby strong, upright shoots made this year.
Cut out old stems in the centre of the shrub to prevent congestion and dead wood at the base. This will allow air to circulate freely in the centre, which helps deter pests and diseases.
Reduce the height of the vigorous, upright shoots that have been made during this season. Cut back by a third, to just above the point where leaves are attached to the stem.
Step back and check there’s now an even, balanced arrangement of strong upright stems. Depending on the shrub’s vigour, leave between three and seven stems as a framework to carry blooms.