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If you are one who usually likes to grow low-maintenance plants, Pieris shrubs should probably be top of your list. These evergreen shrubs which come in many varieties with ‘Forest Flame’ probably being the most popular because of the young fiery red foliage are used for ornamental purposes due to their colourful foliage, and small clustered blooms that attract insects like bees early in the season.
Although Pieris shrubs are low-maintenance plants, pruning is a task that should be carried out at least once a year if you want to main a more compact shrub. While it’s not essential to prune them, removing dead or diseased branches will be better for the general health of the plant too. if you have an overgrown Pieris that is very bare at the bottom or up the stem they can also be hard pruned to encourage new growth from the base though it can look drastic at the time.
Below is a simple guide on when and how to prune Pieris for the best results.
Why is pruning recommended?
Removing diseased and damage growth
As briefly mentioned, while pruning is not essential for Pieris shrubs, it has some advantageous results. For one, pruning the plants helps to get rid of any dead weight that usually consists of dead or diseased branches. Once the deadweight is shed, the plant can focus its resources on new growth.
Maintaining the shape and size
Another good reason to prune Pieris is to maintain the plant’s shape and size as they can get a little out of hand if left to their own devices. You do not want to have the plant outgrow the space allocated to it. Furthermore, a neat garden is always a visual experience to look forward to.
Hard pruning woody plants to rejuvinate them
If you have an overgrown but very woody pieris, bare at the bottom with most of the foliage at the top, for example, then they can handle being pruned back hard to help encourage new growth lower down. This type of pruning will probably require a good pair of loppers and maybe even a pruning saw.
Deadheading spent flowers
Even if you choose not to hard prune the evergreen shrub, you can always deadhead the flowers as they finish. Deadheading faded flowers, even by hand, will improve the plant’s appearance and help it create more foliage. Considering that Pieris plants are acknowledged for their colourful foliage, abundant foliage would not be a bad thing.
When is the best time to prune Pieris
Regardless of the variety of Pieris you have, I highly recommend you prune them after flowering, which is usually in spring. Pruning immediately after flowing gives the plant time to recover before winter comes around again. You can kill two birds with one stone by also harvesting cuttings as you prune around the end of May or the beginning of June if this is something you fancy trying. The other reason you want to prune after flowering is that if you prune too late you will remove the foliage that creates next years flowers.
In most cases, Pieris should be pruned lightly unless for rejuvenation purposes. Older Pieris shrubs can be pruned back by a third to stimulate new growth. If you choose to hard prune the plant, expect the blooms in the coming season to be few or non-existent until the shrub recovers.
Avoid pruning these evergreen plants when summer ends as you may catalyze new growth. With winter around the corner, the new growth might suffer damage due to low temperatures.
How to care for the plant after pruning
Plants need care after pruning to avoid any infections and help the plant to re-establish itself. Using mulch and compost is a good way of helping the plant get the nutrients it needs to recover. It will also help the plant retain moisture rather than drying out in the hot sun.
Also, ensure that the soil is not too wet. Overly wet soil makes room for fungi and mould to take hold of the plant eventually causing damage if unchecked. In addition, pests like nematodes and lace bugs like attacking Pieris; therefore, deal with the pests before they cause too much damage. You can choose to use pesticides or biological methods such as spraying neem oil. In general, Pieris are quite tolerant of pests.
Different varieties of Pieris
These are some of the varieties you can easily purchase online or at your local garden centre.
Pieris ‘Mountain Fire’
Mountain Fire’ is a bushy variety of medium height. The evergreen plant has red young leaves that turn coppery-green before finally going dark green. The blooms that appear in mid-spring are creamy-white with branched panicles.
This variety has a bushy appearance with dark glossy leaves that are ovate. The medium-sized shrub blooms at the end of winter and spring displaying pale pink or white flowers with a tinge of pink contrasted with dark red sepals
This variety has a compact shape with foliage that turns from pink to dark green as the leaves mature. Its urn-shaped blooms appear in spring with a creamy-white colour.
This dwarf variety is compact with firm panicles of creamy-white blooms. It also possesses dark green leaves that contrast well with the small white blooms.
Pieris ‘White Rim’
This compact evergreen plant possesses lanceolate leaves and in spring, the small white flowers appear. The flowers are usually white but they may have a tinge of pink.
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