I just pruned back this very old witch hazel. Did I ruin it? Karen
You did what is called "rejuvenation pruning", but I would have waited until the middle of April to cut it back. That's when the nutrients start flowing up from the roots into the plant above-ground which pushes out the new growth. You will know in April-May if the pruning was too early. What you should see at that time is new growth coming out of the ground or from different areas of the stems near the ground. If you see new growth, fertilize with compost and some organic-slow release, dry fertilizer like Flower-tone. Keep the plant wellwatered. Most likely you will need to cut the existing stems back even further, but wait for signs of new growth. Give the plant until mid-summer for new growth to appear. If no new growth appears, the plant is dead.
The best time to rejuvenate prune a shrub is from the middle of April to mid-June. Sometimes the rejuvenation can be pushed to mid-Summer but it depends on the type of shrub and the amount of rainfall we are getting. Do not do this type of pruning at any other time of the year (especially in the Fall). In the fall, the nutrients within the plants stems and leaves are being taken down into the roots for the winter. Pruning this drastically will kill the shrub because no active growth is happening at this time. Good Luck.
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About Linda Lillie
Linda K. Lillie is the President of Sprigs & Twigs, Inc, the premier
landscape design and maintenance, tree care, lawn care, stonework, and carpentry
service provider in southeastern Connecticut since 1997. She is a graduate of
Connecticut College in Botany, a Connecticut Master Gardener and a national
award winning landscape designer for her landscape design and landscape installation work.