Here are the Best Times to Prune Shrubs and Trees for Healthy Plants


Here are the Best Times to Prune Shrubs and Trees for Healthy Plants

If you prune your perennials, Prune Shrubs and Trees at specific times during the year, they can produce more flowers and stronger growth. It depends on what kind of plant you have. This guide will help you to understand when to prune your plants.

Getting Started

To prune any plant, it is a good idea to get rid of dead, diseased or damaged stems as soon you can. Dead stems attract insects, and can encourage diseases to form. Crossing branches, water sprouts (vigorous upright-growing shoots that grow on trunks or side branches), as well as suckers (vigorous shoots which develop near or below ground) should be removed.

When to prune Hydrangeas

Many types of hydrangeas bloom on old wood, such as bigleaf or oakleaf. These types of Hydrangeas should be pruned before mid-summer. You’ll also be removing flower buds if you prune them in winter and early spring.

Newer reblooming varieties, such as the Endless Summer Series and Let’s Dance Series are easier to prune. These hydrangeas can bloom on both new growth and old wood, so it is not as important when you prune. The plant will still flower on new growth even if some of its flower buds are removed by cutting the old stems.

White-flowered paniculata (similar to ‘PeeGee’ and ‘Limelight’ varieties) and arborescens types (including Annabelle’) flowers on new wood so they can be trimmed anytime other than before they bloom.

Prune Shrubs and Trees that bloom in spring

Early-spring bloomers like lilacs, forsythias, and rhododendron produce flowers from wood that was formed in the previous year. They should be pruned in the late spring after they have finished blooming. You can remove flower buds from them if you prune them too late in the season or in winter. This will reduce the spring bloom.

Spring Garden Tip: Remove any old shoots that reach the ground to keep spring bloomers vigorously flowering. This will allow younger stems to flourish and grow.

Shrubs and trees that bloom in summer

Potentilla and crape myrtle are plants that bloom in the summer. They produce new growth from the current year. You can prune them in winter when they are dormant or in the spring before they produce new growth. They can be cut all the way down in winter and still bloom the following summer.

Use a pole pruner equipped with a rotating head to cut stems from the base of your plant. This saves time and doesn’t require you to bend down for every cut.

Shrubs without Showy Blooms

Reduce deciduous shrubs that are primarily grown for their leaves, like the golden smoke tree, at any time other than late autumn. The new growth that emerges after late-season pruning is too fragile to survive winter. It is best to prune the shrub when it is dormant in winter.

How to prune clipped hedges

Shred shrubs such as boxwood to maintain their shape and size, especially if they are in a shaped hedge. The top should be slightly wider than the base to ensure that the lower branches don’t get shaded by the taller ones. Six weeks before the average first frost in your area, stop shearing the hedge. The best time to prune hedges more severely is late winter through early spring, or mid- to end of summer.

Tip for a Privacy hedge: Choose shrubs that are only as tall as you need to screen the area. You won’t need to prune them as often if they grow naturally.

When to prune roses

Climbing roses and older garden roses that only bloom once a year should be treated the same way as other spring-blooming shrubs. Pruning is done after they have finished blooming. The pruning of repeat bloomers (including hybrid teas and grandifloras, floribundas, floribundas, miniatures and modern shrub roses) is mostly done to shape the plant or remove winter-damaged stems. You can trim them in the spring if they get too big.

When is it best to prune deciduous shade trees

Shade trees such as oak, linden and ash should be pruned when they are dormant during winter. This is the best time to view the branching structure and reduce the risk of spreading diseases through pruning wounds. Avoid pruning them in the summer, just like non-blooming shrubs.

Test Garden Tip Trees with heavy sap flows in winter (elms and dogwoods) are known as “bleeders.” Although the sap flow can be ugly, it does not cause any harm to the tree. These species can be pruned only after the leaves have fully grown in summer.

When is it best to prune deciduous fruit trees

Midwinter pruning is recommended for apples (including crabapples), pears, plums and cherries. Winter pruning may remove some of the flower buds from fruit trees, but the goal of pruning fruit trees is to open the tree up to let in more light, which will allow for better fruit crop. For apples, pears and crabapples, it is particularly important to dormant prune. This is because fireblight, which can be spread by pruning wounds, occurs during the growing season.

Test Garden Tip To prevent the spread of disease while pruning, you can use rubbing alcohol or a mixture of one part bleach and nine parts water to dip your pruning shears.

When to prune Broadleaf Evergreens

Broadleaf evergreens such as holly, mahonia and certain types of magnolias don’t require much pruning. It is best to prune them in the spring before they go through their growth spurt. Minor shaping and pruning can be done at other times.

Tip for a Test Garden: Cut a few branches to make winter holiday greenery.