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Your handy shrub pruning guide

By: Garden Gate staff
Do you know which of your shrubs could benefit from pruning? We do! Our guide will help you know how to prune and when to prune 37 different shrubs.

Get your pruners ready! Here’s a list of 37 common shrubs that respond well to maintenance pruning. And if you do it on a regular basis — once a year on most shrubs — it’s an easy task. Since there are no drastic cuts, the shrubs fill in again in just a few weeks, too. So think about which of these shrubs you have in your garden — you may have at least one that could be improved by a bit of pruning right now!

See how to clean and sharpen your rusty pruners

How to prune 37 common shrubs

Plant Name Best time to prune Hardiness Zones Pruning Tips
Abelia, glossy Abelia x grandiflora Winter 6-9 If needed, thin out the oldest stems to the ground each winter to keep this shrub in shape
Azalea Rhododendron hybrid Late spring to early summer 4-9 Slow to recover from heavy pruning; taking off too much may retard blooming for a year or two
Barberry Berberis spp. Late spring to early summer 4-8 Pruning is the same for both deciduous and evergreen types; thorny, so always wear gloves
Bayberry, northern Myrica pensylvanica Early summer 3-7 Maintain natural, informal shape and size with light pruning; rarely needs rejuvenation
Burning bush Euonymus alatus Anytime 4-9 Prune before new growth for a more casual look or after new growth for a tighter, more formal appearance
Camellia, Japanese Camellia japonica Late spring 6-8 Slow to recover from heavy pruning so try to keep it in shape with more frequent light trimmings
Carolina allspice/sweetshrub Calycanthus floridus Spring or late summer 4-9 Lightly prune to maintain form
Chastetree Vitex agnus-castus Late winter 6-9 Shrubs can be pruned quite severely; prune tree-form specimens only lightly
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. Winter 4-9 Prone to fireblight so prune below infected areas; sterilize shears between cuts with bleach solution
Deutzia Deutzia spp. Early summer 5-8 Blooms better with annual pruning
Dogwood, red twig Cornus alba Winter or early spring 2-8 Hard pruning in early spring produces the most colorful stems for winter interest
Firethorn Pyracantha coccinea Summer 5-9 Thorny, so wear gloves; sterilize shears between cuts to prevent spreading fireblight
Forsythia Forsythia hybrid Spring 4-8 Prune every year after blooming to keep this fast-growing shrub under control
Fothergilla, dwarf Fothergilla gardenii Early summer 5-8 Open habit and small size; rarely needs much pruning
Heavenly bamboo Nandina domestica Spring 6-9 Prune tips to maintain size; thin out four or five of the oldest stems each year to keep this shrub tidy
Honeysuckle Lonicera spp. Summer 3-10 Tolerant of almost any type of pruning; quick to recover and fill in again
Hydrangea, smooth Hydrangea arborescens Late winter 3-9 Prune lightly to allow this plant to grow tallest; cutting back severely will give you fewer, but larger, flowers
Kerria Kerria japonica Early summer 4-9 Take out some of the oldest stems to produce more flowers and bright green stems for winter interest
Lilac, common Syringa vulgaris Late spring 3-8 Prune lightly to control size; cut back severely when overgrown — takes several years to bloom again
Lilac, dwarf Korean Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ Early summer 3-8/8-1 Rarely needs much pruning to stay dense and compact
Maple, Amur Acer tataricum ginnala Midsummer 2-8 Wounds bleed sap if cut in winter or early spring
Mockorange Philadelphus hybrid Late spring 4-8 Remove oldest stems from the center to keep this shrub blooming its best
Mountain-laurel Kalmia latifolia Early summer 4-9 Performs well with minimal pruning; deadhead spent flowers to stimulate more side branches
Privet Ligustrum spp. Early spring 3-10 Do heavy pruning in early spring, but can be lightly trimmed at any time during the year
Pussywillow Salix caprea Late spring 3-8 Removing some of the oldest stems will produce long stems for cutting; quick to recover from pruning
Quince, flowering (in photo above) Chaenomeles spp. Late spring to summer 5-8/8-1 Wear gloves and long sleeves, flowering spurs are similar to thorns
Rose-of-Sharon Hibiscus syriacus Early spring 5-8 Prune lightly to maintain a large size shrub or keep it small with regular heavy pruning
Siberian peashrub Caragana arborescens Late spring 2-7 Rarely needs pruning except to control size; lightly trim specimens that are trained into tree-form
Smoke tree Cotinus coggygria Winter 5-8 Prune lightly for large plants or cut to the ground each winter to maintain a small shrub
Spirea, Japanese Spiraea japonica Late winter 3-8 Cut back severely each year for dense growth and more flowers; trim lightly after flowering for a possible rebloom
Spirea, Van Houtte Spiraea x vanhouttei Late spring 3-9 Recovers quickly from hard pruning; best form and flowering in early summer with regular trimming
Viburnum, arrowwood Viburnum dentatum Late spring 3-8 You′ll lose the fall fruit with spring pruning, but this shrub will flower normally next spring
Virginia sweetspire Itea virginica Summer 5-9 Pruning will keep this shrub from growing loose and floppy; rarely needs to be cut back severely
Weigela Weigela florida Summer 4-9 Regular pruning promotes the best flowering; recovers quickly from a severe cutting back
Winterberry Ilex verticillata Late winter 4-8 Regular light pruning will result in more colorful fruit along the stems; slow to recover from heavy pruning
Witchhazel Hamamelis spp. Late spring to summer 4-8 Open branching habit rarely needs much pruning; prune lightly to control size
Yew Taxus spp. Late winter 4-8 Late winter for heavy pruning; can easily be trimmed any time of year
Published: April 28, 2012
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