Take the guesswork out of pruning with this simple guide

Pruning can be a hard task if you leave it too long.

For most gardeners, pruning is never a fun task, but it’s important do to if you want your garden to look good because it stimulates new, healthy growth.

If you know how to do it properly, pruning will result in fabulous-looking flowers, leafy greenery and an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables.

Of course, every gardener should trim and prune dead, diseased, or damaged stems throughout the year, because dead stems attract insects and increase the risk of disease in plants. Pruning crossing branches, water sprouts and suckers are also something you can do year-round to maintain the shape and look of your plants. 

It can be hard, though to know when is best to do more serious pruning. The categories below will give you a better idea of what works best and when.

Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

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The general rule for pruning summer and spring flowering shrubs and trees is to prune while the plants are dormant in winter. You can also opt to prune right after the trees and shrubs flowers fade.

For flowering plants, it is best to prune after they have finished blooming. Sometimes if you prune them in winter you can remove the buds and significantly decrease your spring bloom. Early bloomers that benefit from the method of pruning just after they finish flowering include lilac, forsythia and rhododendron.

Plants that are better to prune in the winter months include potentilla, butterfly bush, and crape myrtle. This is because they bloom from new growth rather than existing; pruning when they are dormant will ensure that growth is fresh and strong in time for the summer months.

Plants including hydrangeas, roses, and clematis can be confusing because they flower at multiple times during the year, so they have a completely different set of rules. Hydrangeas bloom from old wood and are best to be pruned early in summer.

Don’t prune young trees for a year until they become established.

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Roses are one of the most time-consuming plants to look after but pruning them is relatively easy. For climbers and garden roses that bloom once a year, prune directly after they have finished their bloom.

For roses that bloom throughout the year, it is best to give them a prune in early spring. Most avid roses gardeners will prune their roses to shape them or remove damaged foliage. Roses that benefit from regular cosmetic pruning include hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, miniatures, and modern shrub roses.


Evergreen trees like abies, acacia, cedrus and imported or Australian pine-like variations don’t need to be pruned. In fact, it is recommended that they are not pruned because it can distort the plant’s shape and risk infection. Simply opt for a dwarf species if you want a smaller plant.

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If you do insist on pruning your evergreens to make them bushier, it is a hard task because if you cut in the wrong place no new growth will form and you will end up with a very sorry looking plant!

Perennial flowers and plants

For perennial flowers and herbs, pruning is a very easy process. Pruning is best to do while the plants are blooming because most will push out another bloom after pruning.

For perennials, pruning faded flowers and dying leaves promotes new growth, while improve the look and the shape of your plants. Perennials can start to look lengthy and unhealthy, though, if left without pruning.

If you have herbs that produce flowers and seeds, be careful not to trim until their bloom is over if you want them to propagate.

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Annual flowers and plants

For annual flowers, regularly clip off old flowers while in bloom to improve the appearance and health of your plant. You can also sculpt your annuals to make them more compact.

Fruit trees and berry plants

After fruit trees are established, it is important to prune them in the dormant winter months.

Unlike other plants, pruning fruit producing plants is essential if you want to have fruit the next season. If left unattended, the fruit produced will decline and the overall health of the plant will suffer.

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There are many reasons this happens – firstly, suckers can direct energy away from the fruiting branches resulting in less fruit and less-developed fruit. Also, in many cases fruit will only develop on aged branches rather than new shoots. 

Pruning can be a very hard task if left for a long time so, just like clipping a hedge, consistency is the key to reduce your workload!

Do you prune the plants in your garden regularly? How do you keep your garden looking good in the summer months?