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What Are Deciduous Shrubs?

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  • Written By: Sonal Panse
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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Deciduous shrubs are multiple-stem, woody plants that shed their foliage seasonally in a process known as abscission; shrubs in cold and temperate regions shed their leaves in the autumn in preparation for the winter, and shrubs in hot and tropical regions tend to shed them during the dry season. Abscission takes place in order to save the plant resources during cold or arid times, and the new foliage starts to appear as soon as times are favorable once again.

Some deciduous trees and shrubs undergo several spectacular color changes in their foliage before they shed it all. These color changes occur as a result of a slow-down in the production of plant chlorophyll during the stressful periods of water shortage or decreasing sunlight. In the autumn in the temperate regions, when shorter days precede colder nights, the plants do not replace the chlorophyll pigments that are lost during photosynthesis and, as a result, other pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids start to take over. Anthocyanin turns the leaves red and purple, and carotenoid makes the leaves turn yellow, orange and brown.

It is common for many deciduous trees and shrubs to undergo flowering during their leafless phase. With the leaves gone, the flowers stand out and have a better chance of pollination. The pollen from the flowers can be more conveniently carried away by the wind or by pollinating insects.

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The period after the flowering and before start of the new leaf growth is ideal for pruning deciduous shrubs. It is necessary to prune deciduous trees and shrubs to maintain plant health. Dead and diseased branches are removed during pruning as well as overgrown or broken ones. The plants may be shorn in their natural shape or they may be trimmed into a particular decorative shape.

Flowering deciduous shrubs are often used as ornamental linchpins in landscape gardening. Other deciduous shrubs and trees may be used for their attractive foliage, brightly colored stems and interesting branching. To avoid having to prune the deciduous shrubs too often, it is a good idea to plan ahead to begin with and to give careful consideration to where they are to be planted. It will help to take into account the shrub growth rate, branching spread and eventual height, and plant the deciduous flowering shrubs at sufficient enough distances from each other and other plants to prevent any overcrowding in the future. Some popular deciduous shrubs and trees include forsythia, honeysuckle, viburnum, aspen, birch, elm, maple and larch; larch is also a conifer, incidentally.

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