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When Is the Best Time To Prune?

When is the best time to prune?

This is a frequently asked question…and it can be tricky to answer.
Short answer, we can take care of your pruning so you don’t need to get into the specifics of it. Long answer, it depends on the plant (this really is the longer answer). 🙂

There really is no “specific” best time of the year to prune, and it really is plant specific, depending on if the plant sets next years blooms right after flowering or if a plant produces blooms on that years new growth in the current season.

The following are the best starting points for any plant, regardless of when it blooms.

    • Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased stems as soon as you see them.
        • A dead stem will attract insects and invite diseases to develop. Exactly the opposite of what you want!
    • Remove any crossing branches.
        • Branches that cross each other can create damage to each other, leading to the above they can also lead to poor air flow, if there are many. And they look pretty unsightly.
    • Remove water sprouts and suckers.
        • Water sprouts are vigorous upright growing shoots that form on trunks or side branches.
        • Suckers are vigorous shoots that develop near or from below the ground.

Is Pruning Even Necessary?

Yes. For a few key reasons.

    • To encourage flowering. A shrub that is not pruned, overtime will become woody, with little new growth to support flower bud development.
    • Managing Pests. Thinning a plant out will create better air flow, which will reduce the chances of powdery mildew or leaf spot diseases. Removal of branches also reduces scales and borer problems.
    • Shaping. The shape of a plant can somewhat be managed by pruning. Pruning inward, or outward, will create a narrower or wider set shrub, respectively. However, if you put a large shrub or tree in a small space, pruning will not miniaturize your plant, unless you are a bonsai miracle worker (which is much, much harder than it may seem). So, a smaller species would do the trick.

giant sequoia bonsaigiant sequoia

Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs

These plants set their blooms on ‘old wood’, which is wood formed from the previous year. A few spring flowering plants would be lilac, rhododendron,  viburnum, and weigela to name a few. The time to prune these plants is late spring, immediately after they are done flowering. Pruning later in the season, summer, fall, or during winter, will remove any flower buds for the next seasons and also decrease the amount of spring blooms. Below is a sheered lilac (sheering in the fall removed the flower buds on the lower section)
…I’m not exactly sure of the intention behind this, as a matter of fact, I find myself sort of entranced yet appalled by this. …I can’t…look…away. 

Lilac Sheering


Summer-Flowering Trees and Shrubs

These plants are less fickle than the spring flowering plants. They produce their flowers on the new growth during the current season. You can generally prune these anytime you want, in winter while they are dormant, early spring just before the new growth sets in, or cut them all the way down in late winter and they’ll still bloom that summer! Some popular summer-flowering shrubs are butterfly bush, spirea, hydrangea, and rose of Sharon.


There seem to be so many ‘rules’ about pruning, and depending on what source you go to, determines how you go about your pruning. The most important thing to keep in mind…pruning is not permanent and can be corrected! If you need any help with pruning shrubs or trees on your property, don’t hesitate to contact us, we are here to help!