Pruning may be the most misunderstood and often neglected garden chore when caring for camellias in the landscape. Regular and consistent pruning will maintain the overall health and preserve good form of the plant. Here’s a camellia that’s been a little neglected but doesn’t need renovation pruning. Let’s look at performing some pruning cuts to help reestablish a good shape and healthier shrub. Always use sharp tools, hand pruners, loppers, and saws, when doing any pruning. This is especially true when pruning camellias. A sharp pruning tool leaves a clean cut which will heal faster than a jagged cut. For this reason, never use power hedgers to prune your camellias. First, I’m going to remove any weak or damaged branches back to the main stem or branch intersection, without leaving any “nubs”, using my hand pruners or loppers as needed. Removal of these branches will reduce the occurrence of dieback and other diseases. Second, I’m going to thin out any over-crowded growth in the center of the shrub. This includes crossing or rubbing branches, another source of potential disease problems. Third, I want to encourage new fuller growth. I’m going to reduce the size of the camellia by pruning branches and cutting stems back to a bud where the new growth will appear. These pruning cuts will refresh the camellia producing new, vigorous spring growth. The best time to prune your camellia is right after flowering, but the plant will tolerate pruning at other times of the year. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman and I’ll see you next time on Southern Gardening.