It’s the first part of May, and that means it’s almost time. Well, sort of. I mean for some but not for others. Totally confused? That’s ok because when it comes to timing your shrub pruning, it can be awkward and hard to understand. The truth is you can prune shrubs, winter or summer no matter what the plant is as long as you are not concerned about flowers. However, if you are like most of us you planted that shrub or ornamental tree because of its flowers, and you do care if they are cut off during your pruning program. So, let’s see if we can clear up some questions about timing.

Ornamental pruning comes in two basic classifications or seasons, dormant season, which falls between Christmas and the first of April, and late spring / early summer pruning which happens after that particular plant’s flowers fade. I would complete such pruning tasks within six weeks of flower drop. For instance, forsythia flowers early march, so I would get it pruned by the end of April or sooner. We prune shrubs in this fashion because they are a group of plants that produce their flower buds on old wood, or wood produced during last year’s growing season. Another example; azaleas produce flower buds between May and July so we prune them during that time after flowers have fallen. If we were to prune them in the winter or dormant season we would remove flower buds at each pruning point. The key is knowing when your plants produce flower buds. It’s that simple!

Another quick note. Shearing your shrubs makes life difficult for them. If you do shear try to open them at times to allow for some inner growth. Shrubs need to grow in an open form in order to produce as many leaves as possible. Pruning your shrubs to help them look as natural as possible will achieve this goal. Proper plant placement according to environmental requirements and great pruning practices will help your plants be as much as they can be, and hopefully everything you want them to be!

Here is a list of plants in our area that you should prune soon if not already. Let me know if you have any questions because talking about pruning is almost as fun as doing it. Happy Pruning!! Prunin’ Pete.




Mountain laurel


Some spirea, bridal wreath, Thunbergii, Van Houtei

Some hydrangea, oak-leaved

Some viburnum

Calycanthus, sweet shrub

Most ornamental trees can be pruned at this time, such as fringe tree



Mock orange


Pieris, andromeda

Flowering almond


Wisteria has one winter pruning and one summer prune


If you are not sure and it is not an evergreen shrub like boxwood or holly, go ahead and prune it after it flowers. That will give it time to produce flower buds no matter what! Most of all make it fun!

Copyright 2005 by Peter Deahl. All rights reserved.