How Should I Prune Shrubs?

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  • Written By: Shannon D'Alessio
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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Most shrubs require pruning at some point in time, whether it be for aesthetic purposes or to keep the shrubs healthy and alive. Before you prune shrubs there are several considerations to take into account. Bear in mind the type of shrub and when you plan to prune it. Also, identify the reason you want to prune, as this will help determine the method that you use. Some of the main purposes for pruning shrubs are to simply remove dead and diseased wood, to give the shrub a simple trim or desired shape, or to rejuvenate an older shrub that is overgrown or has outgrown its location.

Considering the type of shrub you are working with will determine what time of year you should do your pruning. Shrubs that flower in the early spring will form their buds on growth from the previous season. It is important to prune shrubs that flower in the spring immediately after they bloom, so you do not remove buds that form to flower next spring. Shrubs that bloom in the summer form their buds on new growth. It is safe to prune these shrubs in the spring while there is no active growth because they have not yet formed their buds.


When it comes to removing dead and diseased branches, it is recommended to disinfect your tools in between cuts, in order to prevent the transfer of disease or infection. This sort of shrub maintenance can be done any time but it is easiest to pick out the dead wood in the spring because the live branches begin to bud. Cut the dead or diseased branches below the dead wood or area of infection to the closest living buds. When you prune shrubs in any manner, cut the branch at a 45-degree angle in order to allow rainwater to slide off the cut. If the branch is cut flat, rather than angled, water can rest on the cut portion, and may cause fungus or disease to develop.

If you want to prune shrubs for the purpose of cleaning up the shape, giving them a neater or healthier look, you want to first determine the shape you desire. Remove any crossed branches, keeping the branch that is growing up and outward. Thin the shrub by removing excess branches and cut back branches that do not conform to the shape you are trying to mold the shrub into. To prune shrubs properly make the cuts approximately ¼ - ½ in. (about 6-13mm) above the buds.

Rejuvenation pruning becomes an important practice when a shrub has grown out of place for its location and matures to a point where dead branches begin to break off. This can be done by either cutting back a few of the major stems, as close to the ground as possible or by cutting back the entire shrub to approximately 6 inches from the ground. The techniques are rather harsh, but when successful it will stimulate new growth and extend the life of the shrub.

When you prune shrubs properly it can add to the beauty, well-being and longevity of the shrub.



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