Seasonal Pruning Guide for Shrubs
Spring Blooming Shrubs: prune after blooming
Shrubs that bloom in early spring on last year’s growth can be pruned in the month or two after they finish blooming, like the forsythia pruned in early May seen above. This hadn’t been pruned in a few years, didn’t bloom well, and it was full of long branches that only had a few leaves at the tops. After pruning, you can see that there is a lot of new growth that will now have a chance to grow and bloom next year.
Other spring bloomers include:
- early blooming spirea like ‘Bridal Wreath’
- rhododendron & azalea
- climbing and old garden roses that bloom only once
Summer Bloomers: prune in winter or early spring
Plants that bloom in summer, like the butterfly bush (buddleia) shown above, produce their flowers on new growth. You can prune them in winter though I find it easier to prune in spring when they start producing new growth, since you can see the live growth to cut back to (you can even cut them to the ground in late winter, and they’ll still bloom that same summer).
Other summer blooming shrubs include:
- crape myrtle
- shrub roses
- late-blooming spirea
- rose of Sharon
- repeat-blooming roses (prune mostly to shape or to remove winter-damaged canes- if overgrown, cut back in early spring)
- and my favorite, hydrangeas, which deserve a section of their own:
Hydrangeas are the queen of summer and fall gardens, providing months-long interest with little maintenance. There are a few different varieties – here’s a general pruning guide for each:
- Old Fashioned mopheads, lacecaps & oakleaf bushes bloom on old wood – wait until midsummer to prune or you’ll remove this season’s bloom.
- Paniculata hydrangeas like PeeGee, Limelight and Annabelle bloom on new wood, so you can prune any time other than right before they bloom (typically buds start blooming in June)
- The new Endless Summer hydrangeas bloom on BOTH new and old growth so you can prune them whenever you want.
Shrubs Grown For Foliage: prune winter, spring, or summer
Shrubs that are grown for foliage like the dappled willow above can be cut back almost anytime except in late autumn, since it spurs new growth which may be damaged by winter. To do major pruning, like I had to do on the willow, it’s best to cut the shrub back when it is dormant in winter or just as new growth occurs in spring.
Many of them, especially evergreens like boxwood, should be sheared with hedge trimmers. No need to go overboard, just a light shaping to keep the branches from flopping is sufficient.
Other foliage shrubs include:
- evergreens like Otto Luykens laurel and arborvitae
- burning bush
- redtwig dogwood
Fall Blooming Shrubs: prune late winter or spring
There actually aren’t many shrubs that bloom only in the fall (most of our fall blooms are from summer bloomers like hydrangeas and roses that continue to bloom into fall) but those that do are treated like summer-bloomers, blooming on new wood and pruned in spring.
Fall bloomers include:
- blue mist shrub/bluebeard (shown above)
- hibiscus (some varieties like Confederate Rose)
I hope this simple guide to pruning shrubs has been helpful and you feel that you can conquer any shrub-pruning fears you may have lingering!
**This giveaway has ended- congrats to Ruth (comment #41)! Thanks to all who entered**
Okay – ready to enter for a chance to win a package of pruning tools from Fiskars? The giveaway includes the easy-to-use PowerGear2 pruners, my new favorite multi-snip tool, AND a micro-tip pruner that is perfect for deadheading and harvesting herbs:
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