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Spring Pruning

Spring Pruning

Spring Pruning

As we have been in business for close to thirty years looking after literally hundreds of private client’s gardens and a few garden squares or two in London, we have to be religious about getting the best out of our client’s gardens. Careful seasonal and formative pruning is absolutely critical to do this. The list of species and their needs seems to be endless but there are some fairly simple rules provided below that should cover the majority of plants we encounter regularly keep in mind one golden rule never prune a plant in flower or bud unless completely unavoidable. As much as we wish the seasons would they don’t follow the calendar as closely as we do, autumn, and spring can be early, and late snow or frosts happen so one has to be flexible enough to manage these variations.

Why is it good to start pruning in spring?

Whilst some shrubs can be pruned at the same time, many have very specific times and seasons when they should be pruned. Here is a guide to what to do and what not to do when it comes to pruning in Spring.

What to prune in spring?

Autumn and late flowering summer shrubs generally can be pruned in the spring, here is a list of the plants that will benefit from this:

  • Lavender (ideally, they should have the last season flowering spikes pruned once they have dried)
  • Buddleia
  • Fuchsias
  • Cistus
  • Rosemary
  • Cornus Alba, Sibirica species, and Dogwoods are pruned to encourage good stem colour and form
  • Willow (species)
  • Cotinus species
  • Hibiscus
  • Roses only in the very early spring but otherwise mid-winter
  • Hydrangeas (Mophead) – back to the first buds below the old flower head old plants can be cut selected stems to ground level to promote new growth
  • Hydrangeas (Paniculata) – Cut back to strong cuts low down on the stems
  • Hydrangeas (Arborescens) – Same as Paniculata
  • Old Forsythias should be pruned once they have flowered to keep the growth tidy and uncongested, prune out any spindly growth and prune out one in five older stems to the ground to promote new growth
  • Spirea Japonica
  • Magnolias (November to March)
  • Taxus (Yew) (late winter into early spring)
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Plants suitable for late winter and early spring renovation pruning:

Allowing for the following plants being in good health, after any renovation pruning make sure you feed and mulch in spring if you want the plant to vigorously grow.

  • Aucuba
  • Buxus
  • Choisya
  • Camelias
  • Euonymus
  • Pieris
  • Hollies
  • Prunus Lusitania and Laurocerasus
  • Escallonia
  • Hebe
  • Pittosporum
  • Viburnum Tinus

Tender shrubs

Only after flowering and never in winter as the foliage protects the plants from extreme weather. If in doubt the RHS will have the resources to answer your questions.


All the following benefits from summer pruning:

  • Kerria
  • Philadelphus (mock orange)
  • Ribes
  • Weigelia

Ornamental grasses

Generally, with a small trim we leave the last seasons’ growth to dry and then fall to protect the crown over the winter, this should clean and pruned back once the danger of frosts is over, ideally just as you see fresh shoots emerging from the base

Shrubs you should not prune early on in Spring

Do not prune these Spring and summer-flowering shrubs unless a drastic formative reshaping is required:

  • Osmanthus Burkwoodii
  • Philadelphus
  • Pittosporum Tobira
  • Deutzia
  • Rhododendrons & Azaleas (after flowering ore winter pruning)
  • Daphne (prune lightly and only with huge care)
  • Escallonia
  • Pieris
  • Ceanothus
  • Camellia Japonica and late flowering Sasanqua (unless undertaking a hard formative prune)
  • Forsythia (post-flowering)
  • Sarcococca
  • Ribes or Spring flowering currants
  • Pyracantha
  • Viburnum Lantana species
  • Amelanchier (June Berry)
  • Hypericum
  • Berberis/Barberry species
  • Weigelia (post flowering)
  • Potentilla
  • Prunus species
  • Lilacs/Syringa (until after they bloom otherwise from November through to late winter)
  • Honeysuckle (only after Flowering)
  • Clematis (only after Flowering)
  • Chaenomeles Japonica (After Flowering)
  • Betula, Birch tree varieties. These are very sappy and will weep sap profusely.
  • Acer, Maples Same as Betula
  • Ulmus and elms are highly susceptible to insect infestations and diseases, the change of which is elevated in spring and early summer.
  • Fruit trees as you may be cutting off the budding flowers
  • Evergreen trees and plants (Late winter and very early spring)

Herbaceous Perennials

Flowering perennials and any dried ornamental seed heads from last year’s growth should have been pruned back and cleaned in the autumn or winter. Otherwise, any spent stems or dead growth can just be pruned and cleaned.

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