The best feature of Cleyera shrubs is the slow and compact growth habit of every variety. The mature height for these broadleaf evergreens often takes over 10 years to achieve. Light pruning may be required to restrict the overall height. Heavy pruning can be used as a means to rejuvenate a Cleyera that has been neglected for many years or has outgrown its original planting spot. Cleyera responds well to hard pruning, resulting in new growth that remains compact with dense foliage.
When to Prune Cleyera
Pruning a Cleyera in the early spring will promote quick growth as the shrub comes out of its semi-dormant winter period. Pruning later in the spring or early summer may remove the flower buds from the tips of the stems, which is fine if you are growing the shrub for its lovely foliage and not for its flowers or berries.
If the shrub has been only pinched back at the tips of the stems, eventually all of the new growth will be on the outside of the shrub. This results in bare stems inside the shrub, giving the Cleyera an elongated appearance. A rejuvenation pruning can be used to regrow the dense interior foliage. Cut back one-third of the stems all of the way to the ground or back to a major branch. Repeat this pruning for the next two years. Removing no more than half of the shrub's growth at a time will protect it from pruning stress while still allowing some of the branches to flower every year.
Why Prune Cleyera
Pruning broadleaf evergreen shrubs helps to encourage new tip growth, which is colorful and ornamental on Cleyera. Deadheading is not a required task for Cleyera and will prevent that season’s berries from forming in late summer. Thinning is another pruning technique often used to encourage more air circulation in the middle of a shrub or to give the plant an airy, open look. Cleyera looks at its best when the foliage is dense in the middle, with very few open spaces. Its amazing resistance to almost any pest and disease means that Cleyera can be allowed to grow more densely than other broadleaf evergreens, thereby reducing the need for pruning.
How to Prune Cleyera
Step 1 - Prune for height
Cut back whole branches to a main stem inside of the shrub. This technique helps to hide any naked stems as well as encourage dense foliage growth inside the shrub.
Step 2 - Tip pinching
Pinching out the tips of a Cleyera will encourage colorful new growth at the ends. Pinching also encourages all of the new growth to be at the ends of the stems, which can give the shrub an elongated appearance over time.
Step 3 - Rejuvenation pruning needs to be done in the spring
This gives the shrub plenty of time to regrow before dormancy in the winter.
Cleyera Pruning Tips
- Cleyera grows slowly and needs very little pruning to remain compact
- Pinching back growth only on the tips of the stems will reduce the denseness of the interior foliage over time
- Prune early in the spring
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Author Robbin Small - Published 04-26-2023