Monty Don shares 7 plants to prune in March – ‘only 1 rule to follow’

Pruning is essential to control growth, define shape, create flowering/fruiting branches for the following season, and probably most importantly to remove dead, damaged or diseased areas of a plant. In order to carry out pruning effectively, it has to be done at the right time – this is dependent on the plant variety – and following “one rule”, according to the gardening expert Monty Don. Posting his March gardening jobs, the expert shared when, what and how to prune this month.

To prune plants it is always advised to use very sharp and clean secateurs, also known as shears. 

The most commonly used tool is bypass secateurs. These are designed like scissors with two cutting blades – one thin, one thick. 

They cause minimal damage to the stem, and so are best suited to cutting live plants and lighter tasks such as cutting flowers.

For plants with soft stems, gardeners could use kitchen scissors, but again, make sure they’re very clean. 

What you want to avoid is accidentally introducing infection to the plant, which may end up killing the plant.

Monty claimed that this month is particularly good for pruning shrubs and climber plants.

He said: “The first half of March is the best time to prune any shrubs and climbers that will flower on new growth and in particular late flowering clematis, roses and buddleia and caryopteris.”

The pro noted that he likes to cut back these plants when he starts to see new shoots appearing.

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However, he urged: “Resist the temptation to do so if there is a mild February as the subsequent regrowth can be nipped back by a late frost.”

As well as the four plants Monty listed above, he added that shrubs such as Cornus, Willow and Sambucus can also be cut back hard. 

This is important to encourage fresh shoots for bark that will glow with extra bright colour next winter.

Once gardeners know the principles of pruning it’ll make the gardening task so much easier. To help, the gardening expert has shared an important rule to follow.

Monty said: “I know that pruning can be the cause of some anxiety but there is only one rule to follow which is always cut back to something, be it a side shoot or leaf bud. 

“Other than that do not worry unduly about outward facing buds or any such finessing.

“Cut with abandon or, don’t cut at all. Either way the plant will almost certainly be fine.”

The expert explained that the reason for pruning is to “encourage vigorous new growth” that will in turn produce “lots of flowers”.

In climbers such as the viticella group of clematis, pruning is needed to stop the flowers being produced even higher and higher up the plant with correspondingly bare lower portion. 

While plants typically won’t die if gardeners do not prune them, they will eventually look very untidy, in turn disrupting the overall look of the garden. 

For outdoor flowering plants, they may become leggy, meaning they develop very long stems and few flowers.

If a plant has a disease and has not been pruned, gardeners will be risking the health of their surrounding plants.

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