Apr 17, 2017 7:05:00 AM / by Claude Kershner IV

The fragrant, beautiful flowering Bougainvillea bush makes a statement in many South Florida landscapes. Vibrant green hedges are a defining feature, and grasses lend a textured, natural feel to properties. The growing never stops in South Florida, so routine landscape maintenance often includes trimming plants to maintain their shape and general size.


But when plants are only lightly pruned throughout the year, you’re essentially removing new growth. By trimming every few weeks, plants’ leaves and flowers never reach their full potential. Instead, you get a “nice looking” flowering plant or “just fine” shrub. We have higher standards for the landscapes we maintain, and annual heavy pruning is important for achieving lush, healthy plants.

We know it seems counterintuitive to prune back up to a foot of growth, even removing most foliage. But the reality is, heavy pruning is much better for plant health and appearance than continuously trimming back.

Here’s why heavy pruning is beneficial for your South Florida landscape if you want your plants to peak perform.

Heavy Pruning Rejuvenates and ‘Right-Sizes’ Plants

During a season of growth, plants tend to outgrow their assigned footprint in a landscape bed. Shrubs can encroach on walkways, hedges get too tall and ledgy, branches can block views and even become a safety hazard. Basically, plants outgrow their potential. Rather than looking beautiful and thriving, they take on a bushy look.

Heavy pruning encourages new growth and ensures a fuller plant.

prunersFor grasses, heavy pruning removes dead blades that can infiltrate the plant and prevent new growth from receiving the air, sunlight and nutrients needed to thrive. Grasses tend to not be self-cleaning, so pruning removes old material to make room for the new.  

What heavy pruning does that regular pruning does not is give the plant a complete fresh start. After heavy pruning, foliage and flowers grow back in, and this healthy rejuvenation continues throughout the year. If you prune continuously (with no hard pruning), you’re constantly taking the new inches of fresh growth off of the plant. You’ll never get to appreciate the plant’s true beauty. When clients decide to heavy prune for the first time, they are always surprised at how amazing their landscapes look—lush, green, blooming, full yet appropriately sized for their space.  

When To Heavy Prune (And When to Avoid It)

Heavy pruning should be done once a year in summer (May through August) during the rainy season. That way, plants can recover quickly. They will rejuvenate quickly from the pruning and efficiently produce new growth.

That said, not all plants benefit from heavy pruning, so it’s important to know the growth habits and whether the plant will tolerate a hard cut-back. For example, thyrallis is best pruned gradually rather than a single heavy pruning, which can be too aggressive for this plant. Liriope in South Florida does not require heavy pruning because it is a self-cleaning plant, meaning dead material naturally sheds so the plant looks fresh without pruning. A professional with deep understanding of tree and shrub care will identify which plants should be heavy pruned.

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Why Heavy Prune In South Florida?

In South Florida where our landscaping season is year-round, heavy pruning annually is important so hedges, grasses and flowering shrubs can look their best. Without annual heavy pruning, plants get overgrown and block views. Hedges and grasses can take over landscape beds and look messy. Flowering shrubs will not produce as many blooms if they are constantly bloomed vs. hard pruning once annually to rejuvenate plants.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to schedule heavy pruning so the task can be accomplished between May and August. Don’t wait until the landscape is overgrown. The service should be properly performed to avoid over-pruning, so it requires an experienced landscape maintenance professional with a horticultural background.

Let’s talk more about how you can maintain the investment in your landscape and improve its value. Call us any time at 305.367.2005, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

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Topics: Landscape Maintenance

Claude Kershner IV

Written by Claude Kershner IV

President Reef Tropical • Pool & Landscape

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