Pruning Flowering Shrubs: When Is The Best Time To Prune Bushes?

The older a flowering shrub becomes the more likely it will need to be pruned to shape it or prevent it from getting too large and unwieldy..

Corrective pruning, meant to change or improve the growth of a shrub, is traditionally done at the end of a dormant season (which means late winter or early spring). Pruning is sometimes also done in the late fall.

But for spring flowering shrubs, pruning in late winter or the fall (before the plant has had a chance to flower) means you will cut off the buds that have been set the previous growing season. To prune at the “correct” time will mean sacrificing blooms – not a good option for a gardener.

So, depending on if the shrub blooms in the spring or summer will dictate when pruning should happen.

Pruning Spring Flowering Shrubs

Rhododendron bush

Spring flowering shrubs need to be pruned during or immediately after the peak flowering season (a boon for gardeners who enjoy adding flowering branches to indoor vases). This way you’ll be sure to have blooms the following season. When you prune, make sure to cut back the flowering shoots and remove any old or broken shoots to ground level. This will allow the plant to grow new shoots during the summer.

Here are some popular shrubs that should be pruned immediately (or during) flowering:

  • Cercis canadensis – Redbud
  • Chaenomeles japonica – Japanese Quince
  • Chionanthus virginicus – Fringe Tree
  • Forsythia spp. – all Forsythia species
  • Lonicera spp. – Honeysuckle
    Raphiolepis indica – Indian Hawthorn
  • Rhododendron spp. – Azaleas & Rhododendrons
  • Rosa spp. – Rambling Rose species
  • Spiraea spp. – early white Spirea species
  • Viburnum spp. – Viburnum species
  • Syringa – Lilac species

Pruning Summer Flowering Shrubs

prun shrubs in winter

Shrubs that bloom after June can be pruned in late winter or early spring since these bushes form buds from the shoots that grow the same spring. Prune by making sure you remove all of the previous year’s blossoms. Make sure you don’t cut back older wood since new shoots may not grow back from a stump.

Here are examples of popular shrubs that bloom on the current year’s growth:

  • Abelia X. grandiflora – glossy Abelia
  • Buddleia davidii or B. globose – Butterfly Bush
  • Hibiscus syriacus – Shrub Althea
  • Hydrangea arborescens – Hills of Snow
  • Hypericum spp. – Saint-Johns-wort
  • Lagerstroemia indica – Crape Myrtle
  • Rosa spp. – Bush Rose
  • Vitex agnus-castus – Chaste Tree

When you prune make sure that:

  • Tools are sharp.
  • You do not leave behind jagged or crushed stems (trim them neatly).
  • Always cut back dead or any wood that is diseased or insect-ridden.