A GROWING CONCERN: Make the cut to get garden growing

AS WE MOVE into November, which is the prime time for pruning many of your plants, let’s pause to contemplate how most, if not all of your botanicals, require a precise kind of pruning.

Please make sure you know your plants.

To prune forsythia, lilac, camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, weigela, magnolia, tree peonies, evergreen clematis, wisteria, pussy willow and many more plants now is to prune away next year’s dazzling display.

The best rule of thumb is to prune a plant immediately after it blooms, mainly so as not to prune away next year’s flower buds.

So why not prune your root plants?

A root prune is a preferred method of either preparing a plant for transplanting or stimulating and rejuvenating older flower shrubs, vines and especially old orchard-type trees.

Root pruning

Root pruning is best done on the Peninsula in November and December, the earlier the better if conditions are right.

Root pruning should be done after the plant has shed its leaves, when the cold weather has returned — well before buds or needles break out next spring.

In the case of plants to be divided or moved, a root prune acts to sever the outlying root web from the interior system.

All pruning is stimulating, and soon, new root systems will begin to appear, especially behind your shovel’s cut.

Old orchard trees, wisteria, climbing roses, even magnolia or camellias, especially when poorly fertilized or unmulched, can be rejuvenated by a root prune.

Again, the secret is that all pruning is stimulating, and if you prune (sever) a root, many more will develop that would not have existed before.

More young life seeking feeder roots will kick-start the plant in many situations.


Fertilize at the time of the root prune with bone meal, which directly aids in root development, along with a super-slow-release nitrogen-like blood meal, water well and mulch over the top (sawdust if it is blueberries).

Next week, we will go over how to root prune and then slice into plant division, because now is the time.

This week, go out and get bone meal, lime and other organic fertilizers.

Make sure you have a good trench shovel, along with a good spade shovel, a high-quality file to sharpen your shovels, a wire brush and vegetable oil.


See you here next week.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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