How to Prune Plants for Growth

Man pruning hedges

You’ve taken the time to plant and care for your garden, but did you know that pruning your shrubs, hedges and flowering plants is just as important as sunlight and water? Pruning is an essential part of growing healthy plants in your garden. In fact, pruning at the appropriate time and using the correct tools, will encourage stronger growth and more blooms.

Common pruning tools:

  • Floral scissors & snippers
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Loppers
  • Extended tree pruner & pruning saw

The big questions are what to prune and when? To prune plants for growth, simply remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems that you see. Pruning these areas is important because they’re prone to insects and disease, which will affect the overall health of your plants. Removing these energy-draining parts of the plant will allow for new growth to flourish.

lady pruning plant

Tips For Pruning Common Plants

For certain types of plants, the timing of pruning is important and is dependent on their growth and bloom cycle. Here are some tips for pruning common plants in your garden.

  • Perennial flowers should be deadheaded as necessary; once the flower is finished blooming snip the old flower head.
  • Annual flowers should be deadheaded more regularly to promote continuous blooming. Removing the old flowers prevents them from setting seed and allows the plants to put more energy into blooming.
  • Spring flowering trees & shrubs, including Lilac, Forythia, and Rhododendron, bloom on old wood that grew in the previous season. The best time to prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs is in late spring immediately after they’ve bloomed.
  • Summer-blooming trees & shrubs, such as potentilla, butterfly bush, crape myrtle, bloom on new growth, therefore the best time to prune them is during the winter or early spring. You can even cut these types of plants down to the ground in late winter and they’ll still bloom the following season. This is a good way to keep the plant from overgrowing in its location.
  • Shrubs without Blooms, like barberry and burning bush, can be pruned anytime except late fall.
  • Boxwoods and other clipped hedges, grow rapidly and can be pruned frequently in the early spring to mid-late summer.

How To Prune Hydrangeas

Some species of hydrangeas require old wood, mature stems from the previous year, to produce blooms and other types bloom on new wood grown during that season.

  • Species that bloom on old wood should be pruned mid-summer
    • Pink & Blue Hydrangeas
    • White mopheads
    • Lace caps
    • Oakleaf
  • Species that bloom on new wood can be pruned at any time except just before they bloom (since you’d be removing the flower)
    • PeeGee
    • Limelight
    • Annabelle
  • Some types of Hydrangeas bloom on both old & new wood, so the timing of pruning is less critical
    • Endless Summer
    • Let’s Dance Series

If you’d like more information on Hydrangeas, check out this blog post about the Top 10 Hydrangea species in Southern Ontario.