Pruning Shrubs


The rule of thumb for pruning or cutting back shrubs is this:  if it flowers before June, cut it back immediately after flowering.  If it flowers after June, cut it back first thing in the spring.  The reason for this rule is because spring blooming (before June) shrubs form flowers on the previous years’ growth, so if you cut it in the spring you will be cutting off the stems that will be producing flowers that season.  Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage (dogwood, burning bush, dappled willows etc) should be pruned in the early spring, before new growth starts.

Spring pruning  (just as growth starts)

  • late blooming (pink) spireas
  • peegee hydrangeas
  • burning bush
  • late blooming clematis
  • holly, very early, while still dormant
  • rose of sharon
  • late blooming heathers
  • cotoneaster (minimal)
  • yew, before new growth starts, then several times during season
  • weigelia
  • late blooming lilacs
  • shrub roses
After flowering:
  • early blooming clematis
  • rose of sharon
  • sand cherry
  • mock orange
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolias
  • early heathers
  • barberry
  • early blooming (bridal wreath) spirea
  • forsythia
  • most lilacs
Pruning in the fall can cause new growth that is stimulated by the pruning to be damaged by cold weather. Fall pruning will also remove late forming buds that will produce flowers the following spring.  For these reasons, pruning is best done in spring or summer.   Dead, diseased or crossing branches however, can and should be pruned as soon as they are discovered.

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