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Whack 'em Back: Pruning Plants For More Flowers

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Author: Doug Green

Plants such as fuchsia and geraniums can be pruned back the end of Februray to early March. The long lanky growth of winter's low sunlight should be pruned back hard. This stringy growth is not strong enough to support the weight of profuse summer blossoms and unless the plant is cut back, this summer the plant will look ugly when it should be a showpiece in your garden. I used to simply whack the geraniums back to six or eight inch stubs from their twelve to eighteen inch stems and allow them to regrow and resprout from their stalks. Remember that the more new growth you have on an annual plant, the more flowers it will produce. Plants that have woody stems such as fuchsia should not be so drastically pruned. Cut back leaving four to five side side shoots to remain on the main stem. Each of the side shoots can similarly be pruned back leaving only four or five leaves on each of the side shoots.

Remember the cardinal rule of pruning. If you make a thinning cut (a cut that takes a shoot off from where it started as a bud) it will clear out and open up the plant. You will have reduced shoots from a thinning cut. If you make a topping cut (a cut anywhere else but where the shoot started as a bud) then you will increase the number of shoots and growth. In annual flowers, we use topping cuts to increase the number of shoots and subsequent flowers.

Do use a sharp knife or garden pruners to make the cuts. Raggedly cuts seem to heal slower and are, well - ugly. Sharp tools are the mark of a good gardener and they are also much easier on your hands. Dull tools are harder to cut with and lessen the pleasure of gardening.

About the author

Doug Green is an award winning garden author answering gardening questions and writing a free gardening newsletter at

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