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Weigela, also known as the bell bush, is a real feast for the eyes with its bell-shaped flowers. The shrub, which comes from Asia, feels most comfortable in a sunny location and impresses with its slightly overhanging branches. Weigela is in and of itself very easy to care for. However, it needs to be trimmed regularly. Pruning protects the shrub from senescence and also stimulates the development of flowers.
Weigela flowers bloom in late spring. With their lush blooms, they rank after the forsythia and before the rose blossom. That's why they are often referred to as "transition bloomers" between the spring and summer bloomers, although they can also produce a second bloom in August after appropriate pruning. However, the weigela needs regular pruning.
A pruning prevents:
- decline in flowering
If the shrub is pruned from the beginning, it will grow bushy and its lush flowers will last for years.
With the weigela, pruning begins with planting out in the garden in autumn or spring. Weigelia are usually available in specialist shops as container plants with three main shoots. Their growth height is between 60 and 100 centimetres. It is best planted out in a sunny to partially shaded spot. In order for it to grow nice and bushy, it has to be pruned for the first time after planting out.
The following should be noted:
- Shorten all shoots by a third to half
- Make a cut about one centimeter above a leaf node
- shorten branches by a third after flowering in the two following years
This pruning encourages the shrub to branch at the intersections so that it grows nice and dense. If pruning is continued over the next two years, the shrub will continue to grow bushy. A small but bearable disadvantage of plant pruning is that the bell bush produces only a few flowers in the first year. But it blooms all the more magnificently in the following years.
Botanically, the weigela belongs to the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). Plants of this family set their buds in autumn to winter. The coming blossom thrives on the old wood and the so-called winter buds develop before the new shoots in spring. Therefore Weigelia must not be cut in the spring. A loss of flowering would be the result. The best time for a shape cut is therefore in June or July immediately after flowering.
Weigela tend to age with increasing age. The result is fewer buds. The branches inside the bush are also beginning to bare, which gives the otherwise lush flowering weigela a miserable appearance. Therefore, it is best to do this moderate pruning on young shrubs.
Proceed as follows:
- Pruning after flowering in June or July
- shorten branches by a third on three to four year old shrubs
- on older shrubs, shorten long shoots by 30 to 40 centimetres
- Cut an inch or two above a sleeping eye
Depending on the Weigelia variety, this cut leads to renewed flowering in late summer to autumn. Once this flowering is over, the bush is trimmed, i.e. the faded parts are cut off. Don't set the intersection too low. This is because the bell bush is already beginning to form buds for next year's flowering.
Pruning takes place on a rain-free, not too hot day. This allows the wounds on the plant to heal better. If birds nest in the bush, it must not be cut. In this case, the cut must be postponed to a later date. If the weigela grows in a hedge, a simple trimming to the desired height and width is sufficient.
Cut back in late winter
After the moderate topiary after flowering, another cut is made in late winter. The best time for this maintenance pruning is January to February. However, it may only be cut on frost-free days. The aim of this pruning is to remove dead, weak and improperly growing wood so that the shrub can grow airy and compact again.
To do this, proceed as follows:
- Cut dead branches down to ground level
- if the branches are very dense: Cut off the weaker branch at the fork
- leave no butts
- Prune inward-growing branches to an outward-facing eye
- frozen shoots are cut down to the healthy wood
The difficulty with this pruning is identifying the right branches. After all, the blossoms and leaves for the coming spring are already in the healthy branches. This is also the case with leafless branches and twigs.
If you are unsure which branches should now be cut, a simple trick can help to check the “liveliness” of the branch in question. With a sharp knife, scrape off a little of the bark of the branch. If the tissue underneath is brown, the twig is lifeless. If a green color appears, the branch is healthy and vital.
If Weigelia is not cut for years, she is brought back to life with a radical cut. Although the flowering is lost in the year of pruning due to the rejuvenation, the shrub flowers all the more opulently in the following years with the right pruning. For a radical cut, follow the steps below.
- When: January to February
- shorten all shoots to 30 centimeters
- Thin out dead wood
Seal large cuts
In the following growing season you can leave the bell bush to its own devices. Another cut will not be made until next winter. After all, the shrub should continue to grow bushy. Select about four to five strong shoots per main shoot from the young shoots. These are shortened by a third. All other shoots are cut off completely.
After flowering, the moderate topiary takes place. This means that the shrub is included in the annual or biennial pruning process.
Use clean and sharp tools for cutting. Normal pruning shears are sufficient for smaller cuts. Thicker branches and twigs should be cut with special shrub shears. In this way you avoid injuries to neighboring shoots. A saw is only suitable to a limited extent, as it can cause unwanted injuries on branches and twigs. If you want or have to work with a saw, you should use it very carefully.