With winter’s dark days long since passed, April sees the garden coming back to life, with new buds and blooms bursting out everywhere. The air and soil has warmed up, letting plants know that now is the moment to go for it. The garden is also teeming with other life, as birds and insects set about their spring duties.
A wide range of plant groups need pruning this month. Tender shrubs and subshrubs are now safe to tackle as the worst of the weather has subsided, but grasses, hydrangeas and other hardy shrubs can also be addressed. Woody shrubs that require a hard annual cutback, such as buddleja, are usually dealt with in March, but you can get away with it now, too. It’s also an ideal time to tidy up low, ground cover species such as winter heathers and Hypericum calycinum.
Discover Nick’s pruning advice for April, below, including his step-by-step guide to giving hardy fuchsias a trim this month.
More pruning advice:
Plants to prune now:
A whole host of garden plants are due to have their annual prune this month. Get in quick and you’ll be rewarded with happier, healthier and more floriferous plants.
Now is the time to rejuvenate a tired camellia by cutting back into the old wood, which will quickly produce new growths.
Shear off the spent flower stems of these compact mini shrubs now to get heathers in shape for summer.
Prune spent flower heads to a set of buds just below them, to produce a growth spurt and new blooms for summer.
Ground cover hypericum
Shear over the top of St John’s wort plants, down to 5cm off the ground, to ensure fresh growth and reduce the chance of rust attacks.
- Buxus: This evergreen shrub should not be pruned this month as it is about to have a burst of growth, which can be clipped into shape in May. Follow our guide to trimming box topiary.
- Roses: Ideally, the pruning of most bush roses should be completed in March. Any cuts made now will remove a good six weeks of growth, wasting energy and setting the plant back.
- Yew: Yews are about to have a growth spurt, so wait until this has happened or the plant will lose its form, thanks to vigorous new shoots. Follow our guide to pruning a yew hedge.
- Wisteria: This rampant climber is best pruned in July and again in mid-winter. Pruning it now risks removing many of the spur-produced buds that are about to break into bloom.
Step-by-step: Pruning hardy fuchsias
Even hardy fuchsias can be a bit on the tender side if pruned in the wrong month, so it is best to leave any pruning work until mid-spring when the risk of hard frost has reduced. Any time from late March to early May will work. There are several approaches to pruning hardy fuchsias, but at this time of year complete rejuvenation works well.
Examine the base of the plant, just above soil level, where the branches emerge, before you make any cuts. There will be a mix of older and newer woody stems of different thicknesses and ages – the older stems are the ones to cut.
Cut all the old branches and stems down to around 10cm from the ground – this will trigger dormant buds to subsequently emerge. Use secateurs, but if the plant has not been pruned recently you might need loppers or a hand saw.
Make sure all the cuts are sharp and even, then clear and burn or compost the old stems. Finish off the job by deeply mulching the base of the plant with an organic material such as garden compost.
To get the best from your spring pruning, take time to consider each cut. When you prune just above a bud, consider the subsequent growths that will emerge and how they will affect the overall form of the plant. Avoid leaving snags and don’t make cuts that will cause subsequent branches to cross one another and potentially rub against each other.
Other plants to prune this way:
Hard pruning is a useful way of rejuvenating a tired shrub and some can take a radical prune every year. This induces new growth from the base of the plant and, in the case of catalpa and cotinus, can increase the subsequent leaf size. Prune just above a dormant or active bud.