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Planting and Pruning Bushes

Pruning bushes
Bushes require regular pruning in order to look neat and develop healthily.

When Should You Plant Bushes?

You can get bushes from trade shops in containers as well as with balls, either with a well rooted earth ball or with naked roots. You can generally plant container goods all year round, although the best time is in the autumn. The same applies for the two other variants.

So place your plants in the ground after the summer. The plants need less water in the autumn. It also rains more frequently in the autumn, so you won’t have to water them as often. The plants will be well grown in by the spring and can then start growing as soon as it starts getting warmer outside.

Some frost-sensitive bushes and evergreen plants are an exception. Place these plants in the garden in the spring. Then they will have plenty of time to grow in before the winter.

Where Should You Plant Bushes?

Lilac in the garden
Lilac requires a lot of sun in order to thrive. Choose a suitable location for lilac plants. ©iStock/vav63

There is no single answer as to the ideal location for bushes. Every bush has different requirements from the soil and sunlight. If you follow these requirements, your bushes will grow and thrive vigorously.

Butterfly bushes need a lot of sunlight, for example. Rhododendrons prefer the shade. When choosing the location for your plant, remember as well that the bushes will continue to grow. So you should plan sufficient space on all sides, otherwise things will get cramped later.

If your bush is meant to provide a visual screen or serve as a hedge, position the plants close enough that they will soon grow into one another. This is generally three to four bushes per metre, depending on the type of bush.

Planting Bushes Step by Step

There are some tips and tricks when it comes to planting bushes. You can find out step for step here how to do everything correctly.

1. Dig a planting hole

Dig a hole that is at least twice the size of the root ball of your bush. This will give the roots enough space.

Dig a planting hole
The planting hole for the bush should be at least twice the size of the root ball. ©MSG/Martin Staffler

2. Loosen the bottom of the hole

Loosen up the bottom of the planting hole a little. This is easily done with a spade or a garden fork. This helps the roots to push into the soil more easily.

3. Create drainage

The soil loosening described in step 2 is particularly important in compacted soils. Otherwise the water can barely drain out of the planting hole. This leads to waterlogging which can damage the bushes.

If the soil in your garden is extremely loamy or compact, add an extra layer of gravel or expanded clay to the planting hole. This creates a drainage and your bush won’t be sitting in the wet.

4. Removing the pot

Carefully remove the pot from the root ball. Shorten particularly long, thick roots which have grown around the pot with secateurs.

Take care to damage the roots as little as possible. This applies in particular to valuable plants such as magnolia. It has a fine root mesh of hair roots. Try not to damage these.

Removing the pot from a bush
Carefully remove the bush from the pot. Try not to damage the roots. ©MSG/Martin Staffler

5. Plant the bush

Then place the bush in the planting hole. Turn the plant in such a way that its most attractive side is visible. The earth ball should be positioned so deeply that its top matches the surrounding ground.

For larger bushes place a post in the planting hole. This gives the plant support in a storm.

6. Fill in the soil and tread in firmly

Mix the dug out soil with mature compost or planting soil. Horn shavings also supply the bush with valuable nutrients in the initial period. You can find out how you can easily make your own compost here.

Nitrogen-rich fertilisers such as Blaukorn should not be used any more in the autumn. This would make the plants start to grow again, which, in turn, would make them less winter-hardy.

Then return the dug out soil back to the planting hole and tread it in well.

8. Water

Water your freshly planted bush thoroughly. This provides it with water and also closes any still open gaps between the soil ball and the earth.

Water the bush
Water the bush thoroughly. This helps it grow in well and it will soon develop magnificently. ©MSG/Martin Staffler

9. Mulching

This step is only important for bushes that naturally grow under wood in forests. This includes, for example, rhododendrons, but also witch hazel.

Mulch these bushes after planting with a layer of bark humus. In doing so, you recreate the thick layer of leaves that would lie under the plants in the forest.

Pruning bushes

If the bushes are planted and well grown in, they will soon be so well developed that you will need to reach for the secateurs or hedge trimmers to prune the bushes.

When the bush flowers is decisive here as this will determine how often you prune it. We differentiate between:

  • Spring bloomers
  • Summer bloomers

Pruning Spring Bloomers

Pruning a bush
You can keep your bushes in shape with secateurs. Go for a quality product. With these you will be able to easily cut even thicker branches.

You should prune spring bloomers about every three years, directly after they flower. They already form buds on one or several shoots in the spring. If you were to cut them in the autumn, all these inflorescences would drop off.

With spring bloomers, take off the oldest and generally slow-flowering branches and twigs. This makes space for new, young shoots. If these branches are already quite thick, battery operated secateurs can provide power assisted help when pruning. The Easy Prune from Bosch is an example of a helpful tool here.

Either completely remove the old shoots or divert then towards younger twigs on the same branch. Do this by shortening the wood directly above a strong, new shoot.

Spring bloomers always form new young shoots from the centre of the bush. Leave the strongest of these. But shorten them to different heights. This promotes branching.

Dividing Spring Bloomers

As soon as they wither you can also divide spring bloomers. In this way, you will reduce the size of the root ball and prevent the bush from over-aging. It will then reshoot again extensively with lots of flowers. Exceptions here are peonies and Christmas roses. You should not divide these plants.

Pruning summer bloomers
Treat your summer bloomers to regular pruning as well. With a bit of luck, the flowers will then last longer. ©iStock/jfbenning

Pruning summer bloomers

You also need to regularly prune summer bloomers. Do this as soon as possible in mild weather. Then the plants will reshoot again and the flowers will last longer.

The precise time to reach for secateurs or a hedge trimmer is a contentious topic among experts. In principle, you can shorten the branches all year round. Although, pruning in the winter has the advantage that the plant is easier to see due to the lack of leaves. If you prune in the summer the wounds will heal more quickly.

If you prune summer bloomers in good time in the spring every year, they will generally form countless new buds on the remaining shoot stumps. This results in flower shoots for the next summer. The flowers will then be particularly vigorous.

Pruning Tall Summer Bloomers

Tall summer bloomers include butterfly bushes or Russian sage. Prune back with secateurs or hedge trimmers. You can remove thicker branches with a clean cut, for example with the hedge trimmer EasyHedgeCut 18-45 from Bosch, easily, quickly and safely.

Only leave a small stump of the previous year’s shoots. There should be a maximum of two buds left. If the bush is getting more and more dense, completely remove individual weak shoots. You should do the same thing for caryopteris, California lilacs, panicled hydrangea, wild hydrangea or smooth hydrangea, hollyhock and garden hibiscus.

Pruning Low Summer Bloomers

Pruning Low Summer Bloomers
Prune low summer bloomers in the spring. You can happily remove plenty of the branches. ©Friedrich Strauss Gartenbildagentur / Garden World Images

Low summer bloomers, such as the dwarf spiraea, also need pruning in the spring. And you can also prune quite heavily here. This will result in all the more flowers in the summer.

The shoots of these plants are very thin and the distance between the buds is small. So you don’t need to be careful of too much when pruning. But cut back the old shoots in particular. You can happily prune up to one hand width above the soil. Then you can look forward to plentiful flowering in the summer.

Pruning Shrubs for a Second Flowering

You can heavily prune back some shrubs directly after the first flowering. They will then often flower a second time in the same year. Valerian, Jacob’s ladder, larkspur and also woodland sage can be cut back to one hand width above the soil.

Which Shrubs Shouldn’t You Prune?

Shrub pruning brings some plants to life. However, others should not be pruned. You can recognise these by the fact that their flowers develop on one or several year old wood. They also only continue grow on end buds of these twigs.

These shrubs include: Acer, rock pear, dogwood, lily of the valley, witch hazel laburnum, magnolia, southern beech, photinia, buttercup witch hazel, daphne, euonymus and fothergilla.

All evergreen species also manage without pruning. They do tolerate pruning, but they do not flower more intensively as a result. Fruit trees such as crab apple should only be thinned if the crown is too dense.

Pruning bushes in the garden
Pruning a bush depends on the plant species. ©MSG/Martin Staffler
Planting and Pruning Bushes
Planting and pruning bushes correctly is essential if you want them to thrive in your garden. We can advise you on what’s important and which equipment can help you here.