Cut­ting back hardy fuch­sias

Gardeners' World - - Pruning -

Now that the risk of hard, pen­e­trat­ing frosts has passed, you can safely cut back hardy fuch­sias and other ‘sub-shrubs’. These plants are half-way be­tween her­ba­ceous peren­ni­als, which die back to ground level in win­ter, and shrubs, which make self-sup­port­ing wood. In the cold­est win­ters and in north­ern parts of the UK, you may find that a large pro­por­tion of the up­per buds and stems on these sub-shrubs is killed back. Leav­ing the pre­vi­ous sea­son’s growth in place over the win­ter does af­ford a lit­tle ex­tra in­su­la­tion to the lower parts of the stems. Here the plants re­tain the abil­ity to re-grow from leaf joints or ‘nodes’, even if there are no ob­vi­ous buds. In the warm­est parts of the coun­try and dur­ing mild win­ters, the stems may sur­vive un­scathed along their en­tire length. But if they’re not then pruned in spring, they’ll of­ten be­come lax and floppy un­der the weight of new growth. The key to keep­ing your fuch­sias and other sub-shrubs in good shape is to prune them back an­nu­ally dur­ing the com­ing weeks. In the south and west of the UK, you should get on with this at the start of April. But the fur­ther east and north you are, the longer you can de­lay these es­sen­tial cut-backs – the lat­ter half of this month is ideal.

1Aim to cut back hardy fuch­sias just as they start into growth. Left un­pruned, the plants would be­come leggy and li­able to split­ting un­der the weight of new growth. In cold parts of the UK, the stems may have been killed right down to ground level, but the plants will re-grow from below the soil sur­face.

Re­move the thinnest, weak­est growth, so that all the plant’s en­ergy is chan­nelled into strong buds and shoots

2

Use se­ca­teurs to prune back the thicker stems to just above a ‘node’, com­posed of a pair of buds, low down on the stem. This will al­low any stems that are still alive af­ter the win­ter to heal, and pre­vents dieback down into the crown of the plant.

3

Re­move all the thinnest, weak­est growth that formed last year, as most of this is likely to have been killed over the win­ter months. Cut this back to the main stems, so that all the plant’s en­ergy is chan­nelled into strong buds and shoots.

4

Look for any stems that have split or been dam­aged over the win­ter or dur­ing prun­ing. Cut them cleanly below the dam­age, us­ing lop­pers if they’re too thick for se­ca­teurs to cope with.

5

Leave the plant look­ing neat and tidy. The re­main­ing lower sec­tions of last year’s stems will help to pro­tect new shoots that sprout from below soil level. Lightly fork around the base of the plant to re­move weeds and re­lieve any soil com­paction.

Wait un­til af­ter the last frost to cut back the top growth

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