When Should You Prune Your Trees and Shrubs?

Houzz January 29, 2021


When Should You Prune Your Trees and Shrubs?

Pruning is a vital part of keeping the trees and shrubs in your landscape healthy and attractive.

But when is the right time to do it? We’re here to answer that question for a whole range of

popular garden plants. From roses, fruit trees and hydrangeas to deciduous and flowering trees,

we’ll tell you when’s the best time of year for pruning, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional.



Why Prune?

Before you head outdoors and start cutting away at the shrubs and trees in your garden or

consider forgoing pruning, here’s why pruning is important.

  • Encourages strong branching and removes weak or crossing branches
  • Eliminates dead or diseased wood
  • Stimulates new, attractive growth
  • Helps improve resistance to windy conditions
  • Promotes good air circulation, which decreases the incidence of fungal disease


When to Prune

In general, when to prune your plants comes down to whether your plants bloom on old or new growth.



Most roses in the garden are modern roses, which include hybrid teas, floribundas and


newer shrub roses. They produce flowers on new growth formed in the same year.

These roses should be pruned when they are dormant, just before the leaf buds begin to swell.


In mild-winter climates, prune in mid- to late-winter, while colder zones should prune in spring

after the threat of frost has passed.

These flowering shrubs are divided into two different groups, which determines
if they should be pruned in summer or late winter to early spring. Hydrangeas that produce
blooms on old growth should be pruned back in late summer, after they finish flowering in
late spring to early summer. Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla) and oakleaf hydrangeas
(H. quercifolia) bloom on old wood.

Hydrangeas that bloom on new growth should be pruned in late winter or early spring.

These hydrangeas bloom in midsummer into fall and include panicled (H. paniculata)
and wild hydrangeas (H. arborescens).

Read more about when and how to prune hydrangeas


Lilac shrubs bloom in spring and early summer and should be pruned after the blooms have faded.


Flowering shrubs. 

Generally, shrubs that bloom in early spring to early summer flower

on old wood and should be pruned in summer, once their flowers have faded. Shrubs that
flower in summer to early fall are best pruned in late winter to early spring.


Needle-bearing shrubs and trees.

Plants with evergreen foliage, such as yew, are best pruned in early spring, while still dormant.

Deciduous trees. 
Prune trees that lose their leaves when they are leafless and dormant.
This will be in winter or spring, depending on where you live, before the trees begin to leaf out.

Pruning when trees are stripped of their leaves allows you to see their branch structure more

clearly, making it easier to determine where to prune and enabling the pruning cuts to heal more
quickly with the flush of spring growth. The tree is also best able to replace branches lost to
pruning in spring, when the tree’s resources are dedicated to growth.
Peach trees laden with ripening fruit


Fruit trees. 

Fruit trees like apple, cherry, peach and plum should be pruned in late winter,

when they are dormant, before the leaf buds begin to swell and open.

As with other deciduous trees, pruning in winter allows you to clearly see where to prune,

and the pruning cuts heal quickly in spring when the tree is focusing its resources on growth.
In addition, pruning before spring invigorates the tree, promoting fruit development by
getting rid of unproductive branches and aiding in the growth of new branches.


How to Prune Your Fruit Trees in Winter

Flowering trees. 
Early blooming trees, such as dogwood, should be pruned in summer,
once the flowers have faded. These trees, which bloom in spring into early summer, produce
their blooms on growth from the previous year. Trees that bloom in summer develop flowers
on new growth that has occurred in the same year, and they can be pruned in late fall through
early spring.

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