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When do you prune potentilla?

Updated February 21, 2017

Potentilla -- sometimes referred to as shrubby cinquefoil "Abbotswood" or scientifically as Potentilla fruticosa -- is a hardy landscape shrub. The plant typically reaches heights of up to 1.2 metres (4 feet), although some cultivars top out at half that height. Potentilla is extremely hardy and grows well throughout the UK. It is commonly used in hedges and foundation plantings.

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Flowering period

The potentilla flowers during the summer. The flowers are most commonly yellow, although some cultivars featuring white flowers have been developed. Many varieties continue to bloom all through the summer until the first frost of the autumn. The flowers form on the current year's growth.

Pruning time

Prune in the late winter or early spring before the tree breaks from dormancy. This allows the removal of old wood without disturbing the new season's growth where flowers will form and bloom. This chore is commonly done between February and April, depending on local weather conditions.

When not to prune

Avoid pruning potentilla after the shrub breaks dormancy in the spring. A high percentage of the plant's energy is involved in forming leaves and beginning growth. Pruning at this time stresses the tree. Pruning trees while the leaves are falling in the autumn can pose a similar problem.

Why prune?

Potentilla plants are often used for hedges and accent plantings along the foundation of buildings. The shrub normally grows at uneven rates, resulting in some branches extending beyond the main foliage of the bush. This results in a ragged-looking appearance. Pruning the shrub keeps a uniform and compact shape while allowing room for additional new growth, which results in more flowers.

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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.

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