Question of the Week Number 1: December 28, 2017

Photo: Nandinas had become too tall for the low windows. But I knew that pruning could solve all of that.

“Neil, We have several tall nandinas that need to be pruned back from our windows. How and when should we do it so we can still enjoy the berries?”

It sounds like you have the old-fashioned standard nandinas. There is an odd pruning technique that is rather specific to them. You want to sort through their stems and select the tallest one-third to one-half of the stems. Cut those canes clear back to the ground, leaving the other two-thirds intact. Those cut canes will send out new sprouts that will fill in from beneath, giving the plants a fresh, rejuvenated look. If they’re really overgrown, you could even cut the tallest half of the canes back to the ground.

Photo: After half or more of the tallest canes were removed, the nandina planting looked much better groomed.

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The plants may look really thin initially after you do this, but they will bounce back vigorously with the first warm days of early spring. By mid-April you will be rejoicing at how fabulous the plants look.

Photo: If you only remove the tops from old nandinas, this is how bad they can look. I took this photo from the parking lot of a business I frequent. I feel sorry for these plants every time I stop in.

Whatever you do, don’t prune any stem back partially. You’ll end up with an unsightly palm-tree appearance if you do.

As for timing, my preference is specifically late January. That lets me enjoy the fruit for most of the winter, yet it gets the stems pruned before the new growth of spring starts to pop out.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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