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Pruning trains and directs your plant’s growth and allows room for new growth. A highland dog hobble plant that isn’t pruned can become gangly, with crossing branches and an overall wild appearance. Pruning this plant gives your garden a more polished look.
You can prune a highland dog hobble plant by gathering the necessary tools, identifying dead or dying branches, and removing them. Removing dead or dying branches helps to encourage new growth. You can also thin the plant by removing some stems to increase air circulation.
In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through the process of pruning your highland dog hobble plant. I’ll also discuss the crucial considerations to ensure the plant remains safe after pruning. Keep reading!
1. Gather the Necessary Tools
Pruning is easier when done with the right tools. Moreover, your plant’s safety is paramount, so it’s best to use sharp tools that won’t damage it.
The essential tools you’ll need for pruning a highland dog hobble plant include:
- Pruning shears: For light and smaller branches.
- Hand saw: For branches above 2 inches (5.08 cm) in diameter.
- Lopper: For twigs and small branches less than 2 inches (5.08 cm) in diameter.
It’s important to sterilize these tools before embarking on pruning. Sterilizing your pruning tools prevents the transmission of diseases between plants (source). Protecting your highland hobbles (Leucothoe fontanesiana) from diseases is crucial since they are expensive and can be a significant loss if they get infected.
You can use the following to disinfect your pruning tools:
- Household bleach like Clorox
- Pine oil cleaner
- Rubbing alcohol
- Denatured ethanol
2. Identify Dead or Dying Branches
Dead or dying branches are the first focus when it comes to pruning. These branches are easy to spot because they are usually dry and brittle. They can also be discolored or have no leaves.
Removing these branches is crucial because they can harbor pests and diseases that can spread to the rest of the plant (source).
Dead or dying branches can also weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to damage in strong winds.
A scratch test is an excellent way to confirm whether a branch is dead or alive.
How To Do a Scratch Test
This test relies on the plant’s cambium layer.
The cambium layer is the growing part of the trunk (source). It’s usually moist and green in growing branches and brown and dry in dead ones.
Here’s how to do a scratch test:
- Prepare a smooth knife or a thumbnail for the test.
- Use your thumbnail or knife to scratch a small spot on the branches and look for the hue.
- A greenish hue indicates a living branch, while a brown and dry hue indicates a dead branch.
The Video below demonstrates how to do a scratch test:
3. Prune Away the Dead and Dying Branches
After identifying the dead or drying branches on your highland dog hobble, it’s time to prune them away.
Cut off small and light branches using pruning shears. For larger branches, use a hand saw or lopper. You should cut these branches back to where they intersect with a healthy branch.
It’s essential to make clean cuts when pruning because ragged cuts can damage the plant by not healing properly. Ensure your cuts are at a 45-degree angle, about ¼ inch (0.6 cm) from the branch collar. This prevents water from collecting to cause an infection (source).
4. Remove Branches That Are Rubbing Against Each Other
Branches that cross or rub against each other can cause wounds that invite diseases and pests. To avoid this, you should remove any crossing or rubbing branches by cutting them.
You should use a pruning shear, a lopper, or a hand saw, depending on the size of the branch you want to remove.
5. Thin Out the Plant
Thinning out removes some branches to allow air circulation and more sunlight to reach the plant. This helps encourage new growth and prevents fungal diseases that thrive in moist environments.
When thinning out your Leucothoe fontanesiana, focus on removing branches growing inward towards the plants’ center. You should also remove any crowded or weak branches.
Use a pruning shear, lopper, or hand saw to remove these branches. Ensure to cut them back to where they intersect with the main trunk.
6. Shape the Plant
Once you’ve removed all the dead, dying, and diseased branches, it’s time to give your highland dog hobble plant a shape. You can do this by pruning the remaining branches.
Here are some ways to shape your highland dog hobble plant to enhance its aesthetics:
- Remove any suckers growing from the roots or base of the plant. These suckers compete with the main plant for nutrients and water and can weaken it.
- Cut off any branches growing outside the desired shape of the plant.
- Prune back any long or leggy branches to encourage new growth.
- Top the plant by cutting off the tips of branches to encourage bushier growth. You can do this by cutting off about one-third of the length of the branch.
7. Cut the Plant to the Ground
It’s recommended to cut your highland dog hobble plant to the ground every three to four years when the plant blooms. Cutting this plant to the ground is a rejuvenation tactic that encourages new growth.
It’s essential to use sharp pruning shears or a lopper to make clean cuts when cutting the plant to the ground.
Finally, fertilize the plant after pruning to speed up the sprouting process.
8. Water the Plant
You should water the plant deeply after pruning it. This helps it recover from the stress of pruning and encourages new growth.
It’s best to water the plant at its base, making sure to wet the roots and avoid getting water on the leaves.
Watering the plant also helps prevent shock, which can happen when a plant is pruned. You can also avoid shocking the plant by pruning in spring before new growth begins.
Pruning your highland dog hobble plant is an efficient way to encourage new growth, remove damaged or diseased branches, and shape the plant. You can prune your highland dog hobble plant safely like a pro by following the steps in this guide.