Pieris Japonica-Trim or Remove?

bccaJune 2, 2013


I have two Pieris japonica shrubs that have grown very large over the years, and have taken over the front of the house. In addition to growing very tall, the one on the right leans very far forward and has many suckers growing from the base. Between the Pieris and Japanese maple there are two roses, Chrysler Imperial and Graham Thomas, which are not really growing well, for obvious reasons.

My question is this, should I try trimming them? If so, how should I go about it? Should I replace them? If so, with what? I'm in zone 8B (Vancouver, BC, Canada)/Southern exposure.

On a side note, should I trim the Japanese maple, which also seems to be getting quite wide?

Sorry for all of the questions. I look forward to your ideas and suggestions.

This post was edited by bcca on Sun, Jun 2, 13 at 12:53

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These shrubs are much too large for the allotted space. If you wish to keep them there, trim them to 3" above the ground and start them over. They will come back quickly. Then trim them right along to to keep the shape and size desired. Trim regularly. In general, your planting bed size looks cramped.

To keep foliage at the bottom of a shrub, you must trim it so the bottom of the plant is wider than the top (like a dome for one example.)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 7:13AM
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Thanks for your help Yardvaark.

Does anyone know anything about the root systems of Pieris? Considering how much growth there is above ground, I'm wondering if removal will be an extremely challenging task.

Secondly, anyone have any suggestions? I would like something non-deciduous.

Thanks in advance for the help.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 12:51PM
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It's not necessary to know exactly the Pieris root system to imagine what one might face in digging it up. Most shrubs are more or less similar in this regard. Let's note that your bed is extraordinarily pinched ... so much so that most plants would wish to escape its boundaries. The tendency most people have in trying to dig up a shrub like this is to start digging about 1' away from the plants trunk .... where the heaviest roots are located. It's difficult, challenging work. One would be better off to start about 3' out and dig inward. Having a good lopper and pruning saw to cut heavy roots, as needed, would help, too.

But before digging these plants out, I'd conceive of a plan for what the bed will become. Will there be any alterations to its shape or size? What plants will be installed and exactly where? The reason I'd want to know this is in case they are not directly, exactly at the current Pieris locations. it may be possible to cut the Pieris off flush with grade, paint the stump with herbicide concentrate (no water is added) and allow the stump to remain, instead of digging it out. Then holes are dug (and/or cut) adjacent to it for the new plants. I've had excellent luck with old plants NOT re-growing by using this method. If the new plants going in are in small containers, it's much easier.

I'm not giving what plant should replace the Pieris lots of thought, one of the dwarf Nandinas (check ultimate heights) come to mind. Maybe someone else has more exciting plant suggestions.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 12:20AM
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Thanks for your very detailed reply Yardvaark. Last year, I removed a rhododendron that was in the same "state" as these two guys. It definitely wasn't fun, but replacing it with a more suitable little lime hydrangea has allowed the surrounding plants to thrive. I reduced the one on the left by appoximately 1/3 and decreased the width a bit as well; it was all I "could" really do without exposing way too many areas of winterburn, I believe that I will replace the one on the left by next year for sure. I have briefly looked into your suggestion, and I seem to like it very much. The one on the right, I will cut right down and let the pre-existing suckers take over. They are already forming a nice shape in the centre of the bed, which would be in much better scale with the surroundings.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 1:08AM
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I wish you success.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 1:12AM
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Just wanted to post an update in return for the help I received.

The Pieris on the right was cut way back; it looks like the shoots from the base will fill in quite nicely. The Graham Thomas rose is now finally visible. I will decide next year whether it needs to be moved further right, or if the canes themselves can be staked in such a way that they will take over the empty space. I hope that the improved air circulation and sunlight will benefit the incorrectly planted rose, nonetheless.

Lastly, the Pieris on the left will most likely be replaced next year.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 1:15AM
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