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Pruning 101 – A Guide to Pruning Your Garden

Why Should I Prune My Plants?

  • Pruning stimulates fresh growth
  • Maintains shape and avoids overlapping other plants
  • Prevents pest and disease through tangled, overgrown branches.
  • Allows airflow and light into the interior for healthier growth.

How Do I Prune?

  • Focus on removing the dying, dead, damaged and diseased stems or branches. Remove one branch at a time and regularly step back to review your work.
  • Cut 2-3mm above the bud at a 45-degree angle but for opposite buds cut horizontally across.
  • For older shrubs, hard prune the stems by cutting down 10-15cm ideally during dormancy.
  • Herbaceous plants grow back each year so require deadheading. Prune back to the ground for positive growth.
  • Larger, overgrown deciduous shrubs with numerous stems should have the oldest cut back to the ground first. Encourage strong rejuvenation by cutting 1/4 of the stems each year.
  • If you notice your plants are not responding to severe pruning, it is likely that they are old and neglected which means they should be replaced.


Spring Pruning (April-June)

Welcome longer days and warmer weather by stepping out into the garden to tend to your dormant trees and shrubs that may have been impacted by frost, cutting back to the nearest bud below any blackened tips. Mid-summer flowering plants can be cut back now to encourage vigorous new growth, dead stems should be removed from ornamental grasses and foliage can be cut back to about 2 inches above the base. Calluna can be cut back to just below the old flower-spike and semi-evergreen Cotoneasters like their dead or diseased stems removed. In the first spring after planting your Lavandula, cut back most of the previous year’s growth as you see new shoots breaking through. If you can, apply a layer of mulch or compost to enhance growth and soil vitality.

Plants for pruning in spring:

Summer Pruning (July-September)

Guarantee a beautiful ornamental display in your summer garden by removing new growth before it turns woody. This is a great time to keep an eye on growth, focusing on controlling it rather than encouraging it, but do avoid pruning in heatwaves. Begin by pruning any untidy shrubs that may be growing the wrong way, forming a shape that isn’t ideal or are taking over your plot.

Spring-flowering perennials like Brunnera and Bergenia can have their flowered stems removed and early-summer perennials like Geraniums and Lupinus can produce a second flush of flowers if dead-headed now. For fruit trees, remember quality over quantity. If you’re noticing an overabundance of fruit hanging from a branch, remove 50% of the crop as the weight may cause it to snap leaving the wound at risk of pest and disease. Also, by having fewer fruits to ripen, the tree has more energy to put into each, resulting in your crop being larger and stronger. Prune back the soft, lengthy new growth on trees back to a strong bud, maintaining a compact, shapely form encouraging the tree to thicken out rather than just getting taller. This will encourage successful growth this year and the next.

Plants for pruning in summer:

Autumn Pruning (October-December)

Autumn is the perfect pruning time. Many plants that performed over summer will now require their dead stems and top growth to be cut back, as well as those that will not tolerate the upcoming winter conditions. If your borders have become overgrown, you may want to begin deadheading but if you’d rather a more natural looking garden, wait until spring to cut back your perennials as the dead foliage will protect the crown and provide shelter for wildlife. Campanula and Phlox should be cut down to soil level, tall perennials like Delphiniums need a hard prune of their stems and Penstemons will need reducing by 50%, leaving some evergreen foliage.

Plants for pruning in autumn:

Winter Pruning (January-March)

As we enter the season of dormancy, the ability to prune depends very much on the weather. Colder temperatures, minimal sunlight and potential frost means plants are at huge risk of being damaged. Winter pruning is ideal for encouraging vigour, so your shrubs don’t outgrow their space. Cut back your Clematis and Roses hard to boost flowering, and revive plants such as Viburnum that have become unpractically large. Your Wisteria should be pruned in winter and summer, prune all sideshoots back to 3 or 4 buds in early January then cut back whippy shoots to 30cm in July.

Do not prune your evergreen trees and shrubs in Autumn or Winter as it can encourage new, tender growth which may be at risk of frost damage. It’s best to wait until the flowering period is complete, and remove any dead-heads

Plants for pruning in winter:

Happy Pruning!


Related Posts:

Summer Garden Guide

Autumn Gardening Checklist