When to Prune Shrubs and Trees

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Knowing when to prune trees and shrubs will help maintain the health and beauty of your landscaping plants.

Different trees and shrubs need pruning at different times of the year, mainly depending on when they bloom or set leaves. Poorly timed pruning, especially in the fall or early winter, can injure a plant and stunt or even eliminate its foliage and flower production. There are the three recommended pruning "seasons" for common trees and shrubs across the country. By following these guidelines you will be able to keep your plants healthy and maximize blooms. If you’re not sure what shrub you have, hold off pruning until right after the plant flowers.

It is also important to remember that some pruning that can be done anytime such as removing dead, weak, damaged, or crossing branches.

Late Winter/ Early Spring

Prune summer and fall-flowering plants, which will flower on the coming season's new growth, while they are still dormant. Their bare limbs make it easy to see the plant's structure, and the flush of spring growth will quickly heal wounds. Prune random-branching conifers once new growth is visible.


Abelia Beautyberry (Callicarpa species)


Bumald spiraea (Spiraea bumalda)

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)



Ilex (Holly)

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese spiraea (Spiraea japonica)

Nandina (Nandina domestica)

Privet (Ligistrum species)

Repeat-flowering roses (Rosa species)

Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Summersweet (Clethra species)

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)


Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)

Sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

Golden-rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata)

Sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana)

Random-branching conifers

Arborvitae (Thuja species)

Cypress (Cupressus species)

Hemlock (Tsuga species)

Juniper (Juniperus species)

Southern yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus)

True cedar (Cedrus species)

Yew (Cephalotaxus and Taxus species)

Late Spring/ Early Summer

Prune spring-flowering plants immediately after their blossoms fade. Because they produce flowers only on old growth from the previous season, pruning soon after bloom will maximize flower production the next year. Pinch the candles on whorled-branching conifers when you see new growth.


Azalea (Rhododendron species)

Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)

Big Leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia)

Chinese Redbud

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Deutzia (Deutzia species)

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles species)

Forsythia (Forsythia species)

Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica)

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)

Japanese Quince

Mock orange (Philadelphus species)

Mountain Laurel

Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)

Spiraea (early varieties)

Star magnolia


Weigela (Weigela florida)


Flowering almond (Prunus species)

Flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata)

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Redbud (Cercis species)

Saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)

Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis species)

Whorled-branching Conifers Fir (Abies species)

Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)

Pine (Pinus species)

Spruce (Picea species)


There are some trees that are best pruned in midsummer which is counterintuitive to most people with any gardening knowledge. Trees with heavy spring sap flow are referred to as “bleeders” or "bleeding" trees. To minimize the stress on the trees it is best prune bleeding trees after their leaves have fully developed.

Birch (Betula species)

Dogwood (Cornus species)

Elm (Ulmus species)

Maple (Acer species)

Yellowwood (Cladrastis lutea)


Daniel Snyder
Posted on Nov 30, 2011
Posted on Nov 30, 2011
Sharla Smith
Posted on Apr 23, 2011
Sandy James
Posted on Apr 8, 2011