Shrubs to Prune in Spring for the Best Blooms

Categories|Garden 101, Pruning, Season: Spring
Shrubs to Prune in Spring for the Best Blooms

As the weather warms and buds swell on the shrubs, it’s the right time to prune! Here in central Indiana, early spring (mid-March to early April) is the best time for pruning shrubs that bloom in summer. But don’t take your pruners to spring-blooming shrubs, like lilac, forsythia, and viburnum; those should be pruned right after they bloom.

If you’d rather have us do the pruning for you, contact us today for a free estimate!

Shrubs to prune in spring for the best blooms

For gorgeous berries in fall, cut beautyberry to the ground in spring.

Selectively prune these summer bloomers

Most plants that bloom in summer bloom on new wood, which means the current season’s growth. So even if you cut away branches, you won’t be reducing the amount of blooms that you get this year.

According to Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, these are summer bloomers you should prune in early spring—but only if they need it. Some plants grown for their foliage also fall into this category. These shrubs benefit from selective pruning: going into the shrub and pruning individual branches or stems. Check out this post for the how-to.

A few of these plants can also be cut completely down if they are overgrown, a technique called coppicing (see the next section).

Hydrangea paniculata in bloom

Hydrangea paniculata rarely needs pruning. But if yours does, selectively prune it in spring.

Summer bloomers and foliage plants to prune selectively in spring 

  • Abelia x grandiflora (Glossy abelia)
  • Berberis spp. (Barberry; may coppice for complete renewal)
  • Cotoneaster spp. (Cotoneaster)
  • Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon; may coppice for complete renewal)
  • Hydrangea paniculata (Pannicle hydrangea)
  • Hypericum spp. (St. John’s wort)
  • Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape holly)
  • Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark; may coppice for complete renewal)
  • Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)
  • Sorbaria spp. (False spirea)
  • Stewartia spp. (Stewartia)
  • Symphoricarpos spp. (Snowberry or coralberry)
  • Weigela spp. (Weigela; may coppice for complete renewal)

Coppice these quick-growing shrubs

While all of the plants listed above may be selectively pruned, we find some do best when cut to the ground each spring. This technique is called “coppicing.” It takes advantage of the plants’ stored-up energy; a full cut-down encourages the plant to put out a burst of new stems.

Take out your loppers or pruners, and cut these shrubs to within 6″ to 12″ from the ground. While you can coppice red- and yellow-twig dogwood and willow in late winter or early spring, wait until the weather warms up before coppicing the other plants on this list or during a rejuvenation coppice on plants in the previous section.

Spirea japonica

Spirea japonica is now on the “caution” list for invasive species. Cut it to the ground in spring both to rejuvenate it and to control its tendency to reseed.

Shrubs to coppice in late February or early March

  • Red- and yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus spp.) have the best color on new growth, so some gardeners coppice them each spring. We prefer to cut down about 1/3 to 1/2 of the stems, so we get berries on the old wood and bright color on the new wood.
  • Coppice dwarf Arctic willow (Salix purpurea ‘Nana’) in late winter or early spring too.

Summer-blooming shrubs to coppice in April

  • Buddleia davidii (Butterfly bush)
  • Callicarpa spp. (Beautyberry)
  • Caryopteris spp. (Blue-mist shrub)
  • Hibiscus moscheutos (Swamp mallow)
  • Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth-leaf hydrangea)
  • Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry)
  • Spiraea japonica (Japanese spirea)

Leave spring bloomers alone!

These common spring bloomers should be pruned after they bloom, so hold off until they’re done with their spring show—usually in May or June. (For a complete list of those you should prune after they bloom, see this Purdue publication.)

Spring bloomers to prune in late spring

  • Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberry)
  • Berberis spp. (Barberry)
  • Chaenomeles spp. (Flowering Quince)
  • Deutzia spp. (Deutzia)
  • Forsythia spp. (Forsythia)
  • Philadelphus spp. (Mock Orange)
  • Syringa spp. (Lilac)
  • Viburnum spp. (Viburnums)
  • Wisteria spp. (Wisteria)

We’re happy to take care of pruning for you, in spring or any time of year! Contact us today for a free estimate.