Ocean City plants

Asked May 17, 2020, 9:58 AM EDT

Can you please tell me the name of these plants, and how to prune/trim them?

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

The first shrub is a type of Hydrangea - either Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla) or Mountain (Hydrangea serrata); both will look nearly identical, but are treated the same with regards to care. The second row of plants appears to be one of the dwarf varieties of Nandina (a.k.a. Heavenly Bamboo, though it is not actually a bamboo or even related); the variety 'Firepower' is probable given its appearance. The final shrub appears to be one of the red-leaved varieties of Barberry (Berberis). Barberry can be invasive in wild areas from seed, though this may be one of the sterile selections that have recently hit the market ('Golden Ruby' and 'Admiration' are bright orange-red like this). None of these plants require regular pruning, and do not look like they would benefit from any pruning at this time.

Hydrangeas in this group cannot be pruned now without loss of some flowers, as the buds were on the stems over the winter and will be opening soon. Some varieties can re-bloom later in summer; most varieties that have existed for more than 10 years do not. If pruning is desired, they can be lightly trimmed-back after the flowers fade, around July.

Nandina does not respond to regular trimming well; they tend not to branch much and exposed stems with bare wood may not refoliate. The 'Firepower' variety only reaches about 1 to 2' tall and wide, does not flower or produce berries, and should not need containment. If an errant branch creates an odd shape, it can be clipped back at any time.

Barberry has small but very sharp thorns; use caution if trimming as they can easily lodge beneath the surface of the skin and be difficult to remove. As they are only grown for their foliage colors, they can be trimmed as needed any time during late winter or spring. Given the dwarf growth habit of the aforementioned varieties, trimming is typically only needed if the gardener prefers a symmetrical, uniform shape to the shrubs; otherwise, they are often left untrimmed.

In all of these cases, pruning shrubs is best done with hand pruners as opposed to hedge shears.