University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Prune Shrubs on a Regular Basis

April 5, 2001

Pruning should be a regular maintenance practice for most deciduous shrubs. In addition to controlling size and shape, pruning also helps keep shrubs flowering on a regular basis. There are just a few basic guidelines to follow when pruning shrubs.

How to prune a particular shrub is the first decision. There are two primary pruning methods, renewal and rejuvenation. Renewal pruning involves cutting out older stems near the base, which promotes growth of younger stems and keeps the shrub flowering well. Remaining stems may need some trimming back into a desirable shape. Some shrubs suggested to be renewal pruned include lilacs, red twig and yellow twig dogwood, arrowwood viburnum, forsythia, kerria, deutzia, mockorange, and weigela. Most are pruned right after they flower.

Rejuvenation pruning involves cutting all stems down to near ground level; leaving short stubs. This method is useful when a shrub has become overgrown with many stems massed together. Among the shrubs that respond well to rejuvenation include Anthony Waterer spirea, honeysuckle, beautybush, Indian currant, snowberry, and privet. Larger, older shrubs should not be rejuvenated in late spring or summer. Early spring is preferred for most.

The second decision is when to prune. Consider when the shrub blooms. Shrubs that bloom from early spring to early June flower from buds formed last season. Prune within about two weeks after flowering. Those shrubs that bloom in mid to late summer flower on new wood produced this season thus are best pruned while dormant.

Finally, with hedges such as privet, prune them so that the lower portions are wider than the upper, so all leaves get equal light. This will help prevent the lower portions from dying out. Avoid pruning the side perpendicular to the ground or angling in toward the base. Hedges in poor shape should be rejuvenated and the new growth then pruned properly.


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