Pruning Flowering Shrubs

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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flowering shrub

You may have heard it said that pruning is both an art and a science. The science part relates to making proper pruning cuts so that the plant can properly seal those wounds made when you prune. The art part of pruning comes down to how you want the plant to look – formal as in the case of sheared plants or informal or more natural when you prune the plant so that it maintains the shape it grows to naturally but in a somewhat controlled manner.

I begin to see folks pruning shrubs in their yards and garden in December in my neighborhood. If the plants have gone dormant it is fine to prune them, but often times they may not be completely dormant and winter injury could result in dieback of branches that is not evident until the spring and the plant begins to grow.

When it comes to pruning flower shrubs you should prune based on when the plants’ flower. Plants that flower in spring, form their flower buds at the end of the summer of the previous year. If you prune in winter, you will be removing flower buds and the result will be no flowers in the spring. For spring flowering shrubs, the best time to prune is immediately after they have finished flowering. Some examples of spring flowering shrubs that should be pruned after they flower are forsythia, azalea, loropetalum, camellia, and oakleaf and mophead hydrangea. Prune these before July 4 so that you do not interfere with bud development for next year’s flowers.

Summer flowering shrubs form their flower buds on new growth each spring. Late winter to early spring, just before new growth begins is the best time to prune summer-flowering shrubs. Crapemyrtle is an example of a summer flowering shrub that you should prune at this time.

If you have questions on when to prune or how to prune, contact the Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County at their Growline at 704-283-3822.