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Salvaging Leggy Overgrown Shrubs and Hedges

Turn leggy, top-heavy shrubs into green beauties with some major pruning and patience.

Multi-stemmed deciduous shrubs like privet, dogwood and alpine currant can tolerate severe pruning. Cut all of the stems back to several inches above ground level in late winter. The plants will send up multiple stems that summer. Late winter the following year, remove all but a few of the healthiest stems to ground level. Reduce the height of the remaining stems as needed.

A less stressful method for you and the plant is to remove one third of the older stems back to ground level. Then reduce the height of the remaining stems as needed. Repeat this for three years and soon you will have green leaves from bottom to top.

In the future, when shearing shrubs, prune the top narrower than the bottom. This allows light to reach all parts of the plant.

A bit more information: Reduce yearly maintenance by allowing shrubs and hedges to grow in their natural shape. The plants will be healthier and you’ll need to prune less often. This includes unshearing sheared evergreens.

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