7 Shrubs to Prune in Spring

Spring is busy, but thankfully not everything in the garden needs to be attended to. There are plenty of shrubs you can leave alone and only a few that truly, noticeably benefit from being trimmed. In this article, we’ll talk about plants that you should get around to pruning in the springtime. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view for months afterward.


You can treat this plant like you would treat a perennial. Just chop it all the way back to the ground and it’ll flush with nice healthy growth and a good habit.

Prune this plant back to about 1/3 to 1/2 of its total size, depending on the size of your plant. Small plants can be pruned harder, big plants should be pruned less. You want it to have a sturdy base to grow from, so it doesn’t flop over. If you have a Pugster® butterfly bush, watch this how-to video on how to prune it.

All of our clematis bloom on new wood. If you’d like to control the height, you can cut each plant to the listed height.

‘Diamond Ball’ – 3 ft.
Happy Jack® Purple – 2 ft.
Jolly Good™ – 2 ft. 
Pink Mink® – 2 ft.
Still Waters™ – 2 ft. 
‘Sweet Summer Love’ – 2 ft. 
‘Viva Polonia’ – 3 ft. 

Hydrangea paniculata

Prune 1/3 off of this plant, leaving a sturdy base of 2/3 of its total size. Remove thin spindly stems, especially on the inside of the plant. This will encourage good airflow. Watch this quick how-to video to learn just what to do.

Hydrangea arborescens

Prune 1/3 off this plant, leaving a sturdy base of 2/3 its total size. Check out this video to get the method exactly right. 

Benefits from both a spring pruning and periodic rejuvenation pruning. In the spring, give it a rounded habit with shears. Every 3 to 5 years prune out 1/3 of the thickest branches to encourage juvenile growth. Watch this video for tips on how to prune.

All of our roses bloom on new wood. They should be methodically pruned in a way that takes out dead or damaged wood, encourages an open habit, and produces outward-facing growth. Watch this video to see exactly how to prune your mature rose.

More shrubs can be pruned in the springtime if you see that it’s necessary, but they don’t necessarily need it if they already have a handsome habit. Here’s a list of shrubs you can lightly prune or trim in the spring without damaging.

Abelia – early spring
Azalea – after flowering
Bottlebrush – after flowering
Buttonbush – after flowering

Dogwood – periodic rejuvenation pruning
False Cypress
Rose of Sharon – early spring

Not sure if you need to prune or just deadhead? Watch this video to find out.

Written by
Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.


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