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Pruning Flowering Shrubs

Spring Flowering Shrubs

  • Rhododendrons, Azalea, Forsythia
  • Buds develop during summer.  Prune immediately after flowering

Summer Flowering Shrubs

  • spirea, butterfly bush and rose of Sharon, bloom most profusely on the current year’s growth (new wood).  
  • Prune when dormant (late winter/early spring)
  • Mature flowering shrubs benefit from a more substantial pruning every two to three years. This helps maintain the plant's health and vigour and enhances its appearance.

How to Prune

Step 1: First, remove any dead or diseased wood. Next, select two to four of the oldest, largest stems, equally spaced around the shrub. When removing old stems, try to make the cut as close to the base of the stem as possible.

Step 2: You may need to prune some of the younger stems and suckers as well—start by removing any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, then prune those that look out of place or are crowding the centre of the plant. Aim to leave a balanced variety of old and new, big and small stems.

Step 3: In general, to head back a stem that's too long, make the cut just above an outward facing bud.  Do not leave stubs above the buds, as they will die.

Pruning Cuts

There are two basic types of pruning cuts: heading cuts, and thinning cuts. 

Heading cuts stimulate growth of buds closest to the wound.  Make heading cuts selectively to reduce shrub height and retain natural form.


Thinning cuts remove branches at their points of origin or attachment. Used in moderation, thinning cuts reduce shrub density without stimulating regrowth.


For more information and diagrams download the document below.

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Janice Hardy,
Apr 15, 2014, 12:31 PM