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How, Why & When to Prune Shrubs

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Posted in Experts, Trees & Shrubs, Spring, Summer

How, Why & When to Prune Shrubs

Here at Country Basket Garden Centre, we're often asked when the best time of year is to prune shrubs... and how is it done? And for that matter, why is it done? Here, we'll answer your most burning questions about shrub pruning!


Pruning isn't hard, but the timing is important! Different plants need their 'haircut' at different times of year, so here's a good overview on the what, why and when to prune different shrubs!

Mark your calendars, and please be careful! Those pruners are sharp!

The Tools You'll Need

Hedge Shears: Use to trim formal hedges when a neat wall of foliage is the goal.

Handheld Pruning Shears: Use to cut stems up to 13mm in diameter. Scissor style handheld shears cut closer than anvil types, which can crush bark if they are not very sharp.

Lopping Shears: Their long handles offer more leverage, making lopping shears capable of cutting through stems up to 38mm in diameter.

Pruning Evergreens

Junipers and Pyramidal Cedars can be lightly pruned early in the spring to remove any winter-killed tips. By mid-June, it will be obvious that shearing is necessary again, as the warmer weather produces a rush of growth. Clip them with hedge shears just as you would a hedge. Don't allow upright evergreen to outgrow their places in the garden.

Spreading evergreens can be sheared or thinned by removing individual branches. Make your cut under an overhanging branch so that the pruning will be unseen.

Pruning Conifers

Spruce and Fir produce buds along their branches. Remove new growth by about half in the third week of June. This will provoke dormant buds to break, creating denser foliage and set new buds at the cut. The leader of such trees can become too long at this time as well, and should be cut. Don't cut below the lowest bud, or the leader will die back.

Pines do not have buds along their stems, only at the tips. When these buds start to enlarge in the spring, they are likened to candles. Remove half of this growth every year before the end of June.

Pruning Flowering Vines & Shrubs

Here is a list of Spring flowering shrubs (shrubs that bloom on old wood). If you prune them too early in the Spring you are removing the branches that grew the previous year, resulting in no flowers this year. Prune them immediately after they flower this Spring. 

  • Azalea
  • Deutzia
  • Dogwood
  • Forsythia
  • Flowering Almond
  • Lilac
  • Ninebark
  • Purpleleaf Sandcherry
  • Quince
  • Weigela

Prune summer flowering shrubs (shrubs that bloom on new wood) in early spring, before growth begins, then again to remove spent flowers. These include:

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Hydrangea (smooth and panicle ie. Limelight and Pinky Winky)
  • Potentilla
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Roses
  • Spirea

Do Not Prune:

  • Big Leaf Hydrangea
  • Mountain Hydrangea
  • Oak Leaf Hydrangea
  • Rhododendron

Bittersweet Vine and shrubs with attractive fruit or berries, some roses etc., have no 'best' time for pruning. If they need pruning, then do it after flowering, or make use of the decorative berries indoors by cutting the fruited branches, for example, Holly berries at Christmas.

Most flowering vines, such as Honeysuckle, Clematis, Silverlace Vine, etc., are extremely vigorous and should be pruned in early spring. Certain Clematis, like Nelly Moser and Duchess of Edinburgh flower on old wood, then flower again on new growth. If the vine becomes overgrown, you may have to forgo blossom in some years.

Have more questions about pruning your shrubs? Pay us a visit at the Country Basket Garden Centre, and we'll help get you on the right track for beautiful shrubbery!


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