A basic guide to pruning deciduous shrubs:

With proper pruning you can keep deciduous shrubs in scale with your house and garden while maintaining the plants’ natural, graceful forms. A yearly thinning will keep shrubs compact and increase flowering.

Why Prune?

Gardeners prune shrubs for many reasons, but the same tools and techniques are used for each. The most common reasons for pruning are:

Controlling Size – most deciduous shrubs will eventually grow beyond the original space allotted for them and need yearly pruning to maintain an acceptable size.

Increase Flowering – most deciduous shrubs flower best on newer wood, pruning encourages new growth while removing older less productive branches.

Maintain Shape – all plants have a natural growth habit, proper pruning will enhance and maintain their inherent form.

Rejuvenation – neglected and overgrown shrubs need not always be removed, severe pruning can reshape and encourage new growth.

How to Prune

When properly pruned a deciduous shrub consists of stems of various heights and ages which arise directly from the ground. By removing some of the oldest stems at ground level each year you will make room for new shoots to emerge. The removal of the stems also opens the shrub up providing better air circulation and permits more sunlight to reach the interior of the plant.

First of all, you should remove all dead and damaged branches as they can become a haven for pest and disease. Now remove one fifth to one third of the oldest, tallest and darkest branches, you may need loppers or a pruning saw for stems larger than an inch in diameter. Sometimes it is easier to cut the stems in two stages, make your first cut, leaving a stub about 1/3 of the original length and pull out the cut branch, then cut the stub off at ground level.

The benefits of pruning your deciduous shrubs on a yearly basis are many. In the long run you will save time, effort and money by properly maintaining your landscape shrubs and be rewarded will abundant blooms. So invest in a good set of pruners, long handled loppers and pruning and get busy this spring. And as always, if you have any questions just call and we will be glad to provide you with any additional information.

When to Prune

As a general rule for most woody plants, late in the dormant season just before new growth begins usually the best time to prune. At this time the plants stored food reserves are least affected and cuts heal over quickly. Also, without leaves, the structure of the shrub is easier to observe and it is much easier to determine which branches to thin out.

Some shrubs, including butterfly bush, some hydrangeas and roses should be cut back quite severely (12″ or less) in the dormant season to encourage lots of new growth to flower on. It should be noted that there are some exceptions to this rule. Since some shrubs only flower on last years growth you will want to delay pruning until after flowering. The following is a list of shrubs that flower on previous seasons growth:

    Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
    Broom (Cytisus)
    Flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa)
    Hydrangea macrophylla
    Kerria japonica

    Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
    Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
    Purple leaf sand cherry (Prunus X cistena)
    Spirea species***
    Weigela hybrids
    Witch hazel (Hamamelis)

***Most Spirea flower on previous seasons growth, some flower on new growth and should be pruned in the dormant season, these include; S. albiflora (Japanese white spirea), S. bullata ‘Crispleaf’, S. X bumalda ‘Anthony Waterer’, ‘Crispa’, ‘Flamingmound’, ‘Froebeli’, ‘Gold Flame’, ‘Goldmound’, S. japonica, and S. X margaritae.