Glorious in very early spring with chain-like clusters of bell-shaped flowers, Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) is also showy when its new foliage emerges with a glossy red tone. This broadleaf evergreen shrub has a pleasant shape, rarely needing pruning. Maintaining the plant's size is a typical pruning task, when the spent flowers are immediately cut off, allowing new growth to replace it. Very old specimens can be severely cut back on each branch and allowed to slowly rejuvenate.
Snip off the spent flowers immediately after they fade in early spring. This process is also called deadheading.
Make the cut with a crisp, one-motion clip of the hand pruner blades on the lower reaches of the faded flower cluster. Look for a leaf, and make the cut 1/4-inch above the attachment of the leaf to the branch.
Remove all spent flowers across the canopy of the shrub.
Allow the new growth to sprout from the shrub later in spring. Do not prune away living branches or tips the rest of the year, otherwise you will remove the buds that will become flowers next late winter and early spring.
Remove dead branches and leaves at any time of year, making the pruning cuts 1/4-inch above a living branch junction or live leaf. New growth typically emerges from the dormant buds on the live wood.
Things You Will Need
- Hand pruners (secateurs)
- Japanese pieris can be differentiated from the mountain pieris (Pieris floribunda) by the shape of the flower clusters. Mountain pieris's strands of white flowers are more upright, not obviously drooping like those on a Japanese pieris.
- Use a loppers or hand pruning saw to remove dead branches larger than 1/2-inch in diameter.
- To not prune the tips of Japanese pieris after midsummer (late June onwards), as the flower buds for next spring have already been formed and will become more ornamental as fall and winter progresses.
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