All about pruning shrubs and plants

Pruning is good for shrubs and plants for many reasons. It helps to shape a plant or shrub, and to keep vigorous plants, such as Wisteria, in check. It is also a opportunity to keep the plant healthy by cutting out damaged branches. With some plants pruning will help the shrub or plant to produce more flowers. In the wild plants don't get pruned, but then they can become a tangle and a garden is, to one degree or another, trying to make order of plants, cultivation to tame the nature of plants. You only have to see how vigorous are some climbing plants to appreciate without a good prune they would take over.

Some variegated shrubs may lose their variegation on certain branches and pruning those out will help to keep its colour. This is called "reversion". It occurs when the variegated branch only produces green leaves and it is best to prune off t the non variegated branches.

Pruning is can perplexing, what and when to prune. It helps to bear in mind that pruning will not usually kill a plant, unless you prune very hard and cut hard into the wood, especially with plants such as lavender, Wisteria, Artemisia . You may sacrifice flowers if a shrub or plant is pruned at the wrong time. Why is this? If you prune a plant at the wrong time you may cut off the very branches carrying the dormant flower buds, which is why timing is so important. If you are not sure of the identity of a shrub or plant, and so cannot decide whether or when to prune it, send a quality image to The Sunday Gardener for advice on what it is and when to prune. Free plant and shrub identification service.

It is also true to say that some of the more difficult plants to grow, tend to be the ones with essential pruning requirements. Wisteria will eventually stop flowering unless pruned twice per year which makes pruning essential. To check out how to grow and prune wisteria, details are on the growing Wisteria and there are three videos: how to do the summer and winter pruning, and how to make your wisteria flower.

Clematis have fussy pruning requirements as well, for all but the early flowering varieties. If you don't like pruning, the best clematis for you to grow are the early flowering types such as Montana, Alpina, Cirrhosa, or the slightly tender, sweet smelling C.Armandii. These early flowering Clematis do not need any pruning. Clematis fall into three groups which decide when they should be pruned, the early flowering Clematis are group 1 which do not require pruning but Groups 2 & 3 do; full details are on the growing Clematis page and videos.

Pruning By Season - What to prune and when

Winter prune in February

winter prune

Winter is the time to prune Roses, namely climbing roses, Floridundas, Hybrid tea but not ramblers.

Prune also Groups 2 & 3 Clematis

Some shrubs can be checked by pruning in winter, Cotinus, Berberis

It is always best to prune during a mild spell in winter.

Winter is also the time to prune Wisteria and to give it an essential winter prune, without which it's flowering will reduce.

How to winter prune wisteria advice and video.

Spring pruning

buddleja with butterflies

Spring is a busy time for pruning. It is an ideal time for hard pruning Cornus,  and willows.  Deciduous shrubs which produce flowers on new growth such as Buddleja davidiifrench lavender, Lavatera and Hebes. Herbaceous perennials where the seed heads have been left in place or the top growth to protect the plant can be cut back now such as grassessedum and salvia.

Winter flowering shrubs which have finished flowering can be pruned such as Lonicera, Jasmine nudiflorum the winter Jasmine and winter flowering Viburnum such as x bodnantense.

Summer Pruning



Spring flowering shrubs which have finished flowering such as PhiladelphusForsythia and Deutzia.

Fruit trees, Apples, Cherries, Plums and Pears.

Hedges can be pruned but make sure there are no birds nesting. Destruction of a nest can be an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. check and prune Beech and Hornbeam, Box, Leylandii, Thuja, Privet and Laurel.

Autumn Pruning



After flowering Herbaceous perennials can be tidied up by pruning. this group includes DelphiniumsThalictrumPeonies, Phlox, AchilleaGeraniums.

You can trim and tidy English Lavender and Santolina, common name Cotton Lavender  and Rosemary. 

This later time in the year is ideal for pruning Taxux,  the Yew.