Pruning Choisya is one of those things that new gardeners can have reservations on. Because it can feel like you are causing pain to the plant.
Snipping off branch by branch on your beloved shrub can be hard to bear.
Centuries of modern science still cannot determine without a doubt whether plants feel pain. So it’s not easy to say whether pruning hurts them.
But what you might find comfort in is that pruning Choisya can give it the look of better health. And of course, it gives your garden that extra sparkly look too.
Here is a visual guide to pruning.
What you DO want to avoid is to prune it the wrong way. Doing it right can:
- encourage a more evenly spread out coverage of foliage
- encourage a good and healthy branch structure
- promote better flowering in both quality and quantity
- maintain an appropriate size for your Choisya plants that blends into the garden overall aesthetics
- rid the plant of bad growth (like a cancer)
Another critical factor you want to note is that Choisya is an evergreen flowering species of plant. This means that usually only an annual session of proper pruning is required for it to grow healthily and to your desired result.
And since Choisya, especially ternata sundance and aztec pearl, is gaining wide popularity around the world, the varying seasons make it impossible to pinpoint an exact time to start pruning.
However, the best time to do it is either in the summer or timed after it’s flowering season.
And before you commence pruning, just do a final check to make sure your pruning tools are sharp and clean.
1) Follow the order of removing branches
Always remove in this order:
- broken branches
- thin and dead branches
- branches that zig-zig across each other
- shoots growing in undesirable directions
The reason you want to be systematic in your approach is so that you do not miss anything out.
And more importantly, you don’t want to remove more parts than you have to. Especially segments that are perfectly healthy.
2) Be mindful of damaging good branches
When cutting thicker branches, be mindful of how the falling branch can damage the branches below it.
Start with removing the thin ones that are sticking out. These will fall to the ground without damaging other branches. It also makes a thicker branch lighter.
Either use a free-and to hold the branch being cut or improvise to have it held up so that it does not fall violently towards the ground.
Some meticulous gardeners would tie the branch with a string to a branch on top so that it is held up even after you snip it.
3) Use a 2-step cut when cutting close to the main stem
If you are removing a strong looking thick branch all the way to it’s main stem, do not cut at the joining point of the branch and main stem immediately.
This can cause avoidable damage if you are not careful.
It would be better to first remove the bulk of the branch by cutting it 1 to 2 inches away from the main stem.
And once that is done, cut as close to the main stem as you desire. Be careful not to damage the bark.
4) Do not cut beyond green healthy leaves
Doing this can give your plant sort of a “bald spot”.
It might sound like common sense not to remove green leaves that look perfectly normal.
But sometimes, for aesthetic purposes, we cannot help but be very tempted to cut seemingly healthy branches while “shaping” the plant’s appearance.
If you don’t know what you are doing, do err on the side of caution.
On top of that, by cutting healthy areas, you are communicating to your Choisya not to grow in that direction. And it might take that signal too seriously.
5) Cut the tallest growth points
If you leave the stems growing upwards alone, guess what your plant will do?
It will continue to focus it’s growth upwards because that is it’s easiest direction to grow.
But once you snip the top parts, the plants will get the message and start spreading out it’s growth on it branches. Leaves and smaller branches will start growing sideways giving your plant a “fuller” shaped look.
It will be very appropriate if you are growing your Choisya for hedges on your property.
When Choisya grows large enough for you to think about pruning, you might notice that there are branches growing sideways from the bottom.
If you don’t have a clear picture in your head of what to do with these, I suggest to cut them.
They are ugly and and trespass the area belonging to other plants growing beside it. This can negatively affect the look of your garden and become competition to other plants too.
What you want is to prevent it from growing outwards and along the ground.
Pruning can be a huge challenge for beginners. But once you get the hang of it, it can become too easy.
And you will feel good about doing it since you are nurturing it as a real living thing.
Finally, don’t forget that pruning Choisya does not primarily benefit the overall beauty of your garden. It actually results in better health and better flower on the plant. So put some love into it.