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Pruning Advice

Posted on March 23rd, 2020

When things start to wake up in the spring, you know its time to start cutting back and pruning your plants.


Hydrangeas are a tricky set and one we get asked about most often.Your panicle hydrangeas can be cut back as much as 50 percent right now, but your traditional hydrangeas should be left alone. Don’t prune them now but rather tackle them at the end of the season to make sure you get the flowering you want. Wait until they flush through growth in the spring and then do your pruning and deadheading after that. 

The same goes for plants like dogwoods and crabapple trees. If you have a broken branch or some other minor trim to make, you can do that at any time and it won’t impact the plant, but save your serious pruning for later.

For your spring and summer flowering shrubs, like lilacs, rhododendrons and azaleas, you’ll want to wait for them to start to bloom before pruning.

It’s a little too early for evergreens and hedges. If you sheer them back now and we get a cold snap, you can damage the plant.

With all pruning, the amount to trim depends on the size of the plant, but as a good rule of thumb you want to prune it back by about one-third. There are some plants that are the exception to this, such as the summer flowering butterfly bush, which you can be very aggressive with and cut down to about a foot and allow it to flush back and regrow.

For larger evergreens, like white pines, the timing for pruning needs to be very specific. Wait until you see them flushing out new growth – what we call “candles” – to take on the task. You can pinch off the candles completely for a heavier sheer or cut them in half for a more subtle look.

The goal of pruning is to leave the plant looking at natural as possible. If you do over prune, don’t panic, plants are resilient.

If you’ve inherited a new landscape that is neglected, by moving into a new home for example, the first step is always to determine what plants you are working with. Email us your photos and we’ll help you identify the plants and suggest the appropriate timeline and amount of pruning to be done to get the best rejuvenation.