Next Up

11 Plants You Should Never Prune in Early Spring

Updated on April 26, 2023

Plus, 25 plants you should be pruning in spring. Our in-depth guide tells you when to sharpen your pruners, and when not to, so you can avoid costly mistakes.

1 / 38
Photo: Courtesy of Monrovia

Know When to Prune So You Don't Lose Your Blooms

Spring fever makes us want to spring clean our homes — and our gardens. Just don't be too eager to pick up the shears and pruners. There are flowering plants you shouldn't prune in very early spring. If you do, you'll cut off their buds and you won't have any blooms, or you'll have only a few until the following year. Learn which plants you should be pruning in spring, too. Use these spring pruning tips to make the most of your garden.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 38

When to Prune Lilacs

Prune lilacs immediately after the blooms finish. Buds for the next year's flowers form right after the flowers fade, so don't wait too long. However, it's fine to remove dead, damaged or diseased stems, and stems that rub against each other. Also, completely cut off old stems thicker than two inches, leaving 10 or 12 main stems, each 1 or 2 inches thick. Otherwise, lilacs eventually grow very tall and flower only on the tips. Don't prune more than one-third of your bush at one time.

This lilac, 'Purple Bloomerang' (Syringa) is hardy in USDA Gardening Zones 3 to 7. It blooms in mid-to-late spring, takes a short rest to put out new growth and reblooms from summer into fall. Because it sets buds on both new and old wood and it's compact, at 4 to 5 feet tall, it doesn't need much pruning. If you prune, give it a light trim as soon as the flowers fade.

see more

More photos after this Ad

3 / 38

When to Prune Forsythia

Brilliant yellow blooms explode on forsythias in spring but hold off on pruning these shrubs very early in the season. Because forsythia buds form on old wood, wait until the flowers open and fade before you start cutting. Keep your forsythia's natural shape when you prune. It won't set as many buds if it's trimmed into a hedge.

'Show Off Sugar Baby' is a fast-growing, dwarf plant that doesn't need much pruning anyway, unless you're just taking out dead or damaged branches. This plant is hardy in Zones 5 to 18.

learn more

More photos after this Ad

4 / 38
Photo: Kathleen Schmucker/NBG/Plant Development Services/Encore Azalea

When to Prune Azaleas

Don't take the cutters to azaleas in very early spring. Wait until immediately after the blooms are finished. If you prune reblooming azaleas later, you'll lose the next cycle of flowers.

Introduced in 2021, 'Autumn Starburst' is a standout azalea with coral-pink flowers that open in spring, summer and fall. Thanks to its mounding growth habit and small size (it grows just 3 feet tall and wide), this rebloomer, which is hardy to Zone 6a, doesn't require much pruning.

see more

More photos after this Ad