Neat and Tidy: Pruning Shrubs

Keep your favorite plants in order with a few simple pruning methods.
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Prune Bit by Bit

Prune Bit by Bit

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

To keep shrubs looking their best, prune them regularly to keep them within bounds and maintain a well-balanced structure. Pruning at the right time will keep them healthy and encourage masses of flowers.

Why Prune Shrubs?

Most shrubs will grow happily without intervention, but unless you prefer a natural look, unpruned plants look out of place in traditional gardens. Annual pruning will keep shrubs at a size suitable for your garden, will prevent them muscling out other plants, and stop them spreading onto pathways.

Pruning also improves the flowering or fruiting performance of shrubs. Older wood is less vigorous than younger shoots, and removing this material encourages plants to be more productive. Timing is key, to avoid mistakenly removing developing flower buds. Although some shrubs respond to hard pruning with a flush of new growth, others are slower growing and only require minimal pruning to keep a balanced shape.

Routine Tasks

To ensure healthy plants, remove dead, diseased, or dying growth as you notice it. If left, diseased portions can spread into other parts of the plant. Either cut out the damaged branch, or cut back to healthy wood.

Some shrubs grow unevenly, spoiling the symmetry of the plant; if a plant has developed more growth on just one side, lightly prune the stronger shoots on the bushy side, and hard prune the weaker ones to restore balance.

Congested branches reduce airflow and light to the center of the plant, which can result in disease. Thinning out growth and removing crossing or unwanted branches will improve the resilience of the plant. 

Shrubs Pruned in Summer After Flowering

  • Buddleja alternifolia
  • Deutzia
  • Exochorda
  • Kolkwitzia
  • Philadelphus
  • Photinia villosa
  • Ribes sanguineum
  • Syringa
  • Weigela

Shrubs Pruned in Spring

  • Buddleja davidii
  • Caryopteris x clandonensis
  • Cotinus
  • Forsythia
  • Fuchsia
  • Hibiscus syriacus
  • Hydrangea
  • Lavatera
  • Perovskia
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