You would probably know Altheas as Rose of Sharon or shrub-Althea. It is a tall shrub, growing to a height of 8 to 10 feet with a spread of 4 to 10 feet. The flowers are very showy in the summer from colors of blues, pinks and white. Peonies are perennial flowers that come in almost every color except blue. There are two types of peonies: garden, which rarely need pruning and tree peonies. Tree peonies are shrub like plants that do require some pruning. Both Altheas and Peonies are low maintenance plants.
Cut the shrub back to shape at any time of year. Altheas flower on new growth, so if pruning in the spring, watch that you don't cut off all the new buds. Cut branches at a 45 degree angle and leave at least three to four leaves on each branch that you cut.
Prune off dead or damaged branches as soon as you notice them. Cut them back to the main trunk or to a bud below the break or damage at a 45 degree angle.
Take off branches damaged by freezes in the northern part of the country in late winter or early spring. Cutting back severely will give you large but few flowers. Little pruning or no pruning will give you many small flowers.
Pinching off some of the buds in the spring will also encourage larger flowers to form on a branch.
Pinch off the smaller lateral buds if you want large flowers, leaving the large terminal buds. This should be done throughout the growing season.
Prune the shrub for shaping and spacing in the late fall. This is when the plant is dormant and will cause the least amount of stress. In the south, cut the branches back to leave at least two to three leaves. Cut on a 45 degree angle with sharp pruning shears.
Remove dead or damaged branches at any time of year. Cut dead branches back to the main trunk and damaged or broken branches to the nearest bud on a 45 degree angle. Dispose of any pruned branches, leaves or flowers in the trash; do not leave it under the shrub.
Cut the branches to within 2 inches of the ground in the north where there is severe weather. Do not damage the crown or part of the plant directly over the roots. Cover with 4 to 5 inches of mulch for the winter.
About this Author
Dale DeVries is a retired realtor with 30 years of experience in almost every facet of the business. DeVries started writing in 1990 when she wrote advertising and training manuals for her real estate agents. Since retiring, she has spent the last two years writing well over a thousand articles online for Associated Content, Bright Hub and Demand Studios.