Caring for shrubs is not a difficult task if the correct shrubs were used for your landscape when they were planted. There are so many varieties of shrubs, and some require full sun while others can be planted in partial shade. Many shrubs grow quickly and large, so making sure they have the room to grow will cut down on pruning each year. If you are just moving into a landscape full of shrubs, take some time to identify them. This will be the first step in giving them the correct care.
Prune off all dead and diseased branches and foliage in late fall or early winter. Cut back branches to shape the shrub or keep it to a certain size. If the shrub was originally planted in an area that was too small for it, pruning may have to be done again in the late summer, or after flowering if it is a flowering shrub.
Clean out under the shrubs each spring with a small garden rake. Remove all debris and dead foliage that has fallen. This will keep fungus and molds from forming and destroying the bottom foliage and roots.
Place a granular slow release fertilizer under the shrub but at least two inches away from the trunk. Water the fertilizer in well. Fertilizing shrubs is normally only done once a year; however some flowering shrubs may need another application when they start to bud. Follow the manufacturer’s directions as to amount and how often to apply.
Create a mixture of half compost and half peat moss. Make enough to place two inches of the mixture under each shrub across the entire diameter of the spread. Work it in to the very top of the soil, but be careful of the shallow roots of some shrubs. If the roots are very shallow, just leave the mixture on top and it will eventually work its way into the soil.
Place three inches of mulch under the shrubs each spring. This should follow the cleaning, fertilizing and any adding of amendments to the soil. The mulch will keep weeds from growing under and around the shrubs and help retain moisture in the soil. This is especially important with shallow-rooted shrubs, such as azaleas, and for the first two years of all shrubs while the roots are getting established.
Water the shrubs to keep the soil moist throughout the spring and summer. Start to cut back the watering in the fall to once every other week, and stop watering in the winter, unless it is very dry. Evergreens will need more water through the winter than those shrubs that go into a dormancy period.