Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Question: What have I done wrong with my spring-flowering shrubs?  I grow rhododendron, forsythia, bridal wreath, lilac, and dogwood.  I try to take good care of them, but the flowering is so disappointing every year!  I fertilize them with 10-6-4 in spring, water well in summer, prune and shape them by mid-October every fall, and mulch them well in December.  Too much loving care perhaps?

Answer: No, you are not guilty of giving your shrubs too much loving care.  Everything you do sounds fine with one exception: the October pruning and shaping.  The plants you list set their flower buds for the following year months before October.  When you prune, you cut off most of next season’s buds!  Trim, prune, and shape the shrubs as soon as their flowering is finished (late spring or early summer).  This fall, try not pruning at all and see what happens next spring.

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