Pruning 101

Posted on March 21st, 2021

Spring has officially sprung! As you start to spend more time outside, you’re bound to notice your plants waking up and pushing out fresh new growth for the season, which leaves many of us wondering, “should I be pruning that right now?” We’ve rounded up some of our most asked about plants to put to rest the age-old question; to prune or not to prune?

Hydrangeas

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. 

Dogwood & Crabapple Trees

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 you’ll want to save your serious pruning for later.

Flowering Shrubs

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.

Evergreens

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

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.

 

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.

The goal of pruning is to leave the plant looking as natural as possible. If you do over prune, don’t panic! Plants are more resilient than you might think.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help!

Want to stay on top of spring gardening tasks? Be sure to check out our Spring Checklist.