Shrubs add volume, height, depth, and loads of interest to the landscape, but you might be wondering about when is the best time to prune them. We’ve broken it down for you here and hope you find it helpful.
Remember, just do your best. If you do make a mistake, plants are very forgiving. You may miss a season of flowers, but once you’ve reset the timing for pruning the plant will recover and give you plenty of blooms the next year.
If you have questions about a specific plant, leave a comment below.
Prune summer bloomers in late winter.
Prune spring bloomers right after flowering.
Determine type of hydrangea or rose before pruning to get timing right.
Stray or broken branches can be trimmed back any time.
Spring Flowering Shrubs
Plants that bloom in early spring usually produce their flower buds the year before. The buds over-winter on the previous year’s growth and open in spring.
Prune in spring right after they’ve finished blooming.
If you prune these spring bloomers in fall or winter you’ll remove the flower buds and won’t have flowers that year. The plants will be just fine, but you’ll miss a year of blooms (insert sad emoji).
Most of these plants don’t need heavy pruning every year, just some selective thinning of branches to give them a nice shape and dead-heading spent blooms.
Here are a few examples of spring flowering shrubs to prune right after blooming:
Summer-blooming spirea (S. japonicaandSpiraea x bumalda) are pruned in late winter or early spring. This one has bright, neon-red flowers. Zone: 4 – 9
Okay, we know this one can be confusing as pruning is determined by the type of hydrangea and whether it blooms on new or old wood.Here is a thorough cheat sheet, but in brief:
You’ll need to identify what kind of hydrangea you have and follow the appropriate rule.
Mophead hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla –the ones with big blue or pink mophead flowers), Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia), and Hydrangea aspera all bloom on old wood meaning they set next years flowers on stems produced during the previous summer. Deadheading and pruning for shape should be done immediately after flowering or by early fall at the latest.
Panicle hydrangea(Hydrangea paniculata) which have long, white, conical flowers, andSmooth hydrangeasuch as ‘Annabelle’ (Hydrangea arborescens)bloom on new wood which means that buds are formed on this new growth in the current growing season. Pruning should be done inlate winter or very early spring.
Reblooming hydrangeasare modern cultivars that bloom in spring and again in summer. Thesebloom on both old and new wood. The “old wood” buds provide early season color, while blooms forming on current season growth flower later, lasting through the end of the season. All they really need is deadheading spent flowers andpruning out dead or weak stems in the early spring.
For more information on pruning different types of Hydrangea,click here. Here are examples of the different types:
New, compact form of ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, perfect for smaller space throughout summer. Zone: 3 – 8
Hybrid tea, modern and old-fashioned re-bloomers, and climbing roses should be pruned just before the plant breaks dormancy after spring’s final frost which could be anytime between January and April in cold climates. In warmer climates where there is no frost, prune in January or February.
Some old-fashioned roses are once-blooming (such as moss and Damask types) that flower on old wood and should be pruned in the summer after they have flowered.