I have couple of philadelphus (mock orange) bushes that have bloomed out. Now
the plants look straggly and quite ugly, with dead-looking branches everywhere.
I am wondering if it is okay for me to cut the plants down to the ground in the
fall for spring growth. If not, how does one trim this plant?
Dead-looking how ? No leaves? Or just the rather untidy looking dried
remains of the flowers? No leaves is not a good thing - it is too early for
the shrub to have lost its leaves for the season, so the lack of foliage may
indicate some other stress factor, perhaps lack of adequate water.
To maximize bloom for the following season, this plant should be pruned as
soon as possible after flowering. You can trim it back now, but you will
sacrifice a portion of next season's flowers. Cutting it down to the ground
is rather harsh and at this time of year, you risk exposing it to winter
damage, which in colder climates with severe winters, could kill it. If it
is a mature shrub that has grown ungainly, you can remove a third of the
oldest canes or stems coming from the base. This will encourage the
development of new, more vigorous wood and you can actually rejuvenate the
plant by doing the same for a period of three years. Otherwise, you can cut
back taller stems and spent flowering branches to a strong shoot or new
growth as needed, but as next year's flowers will form on the growth the
plant produced this season, you will be removing them as well, unless you do
this as soon as the plant is done blooming.
pam - gardengal
Thank you very much for your reply. Sorry I was not clear on describing the
condition of the bushes; the branches do have leaves on them, but they look
very ungainly and unattractive, like a buddleia bush that I have. I thought
maybe if I cut the whole thing down to the ground, I could make the branches
grow out more attractively. I will take your advice and trim off the outside
canes and not cut the whole thing down since we do have a severe winter here.
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