Prune Small Trees and Shrubs in Spring

Prune small trees and shrub shrubs in spring that bloom in summer. Proper pruning encourages heavy flowering and maintains the size and shape of the plant.Prune Small Trees and Shrubs in Spring

These are some summer-flowering shrubs that benefit from spring pruning:

Butterfly bush (Buddleia)
Crepe myrtle
PeeGee and Tardiva hydrangeas
Rose of Sharon (Althea)
Summer-flowering spireas, such as Anthony Waterer

Time — 15-30 minutes per shrub, 30-60 minutes per small tree
Difficulty — Moderate
Expertise — Basic knowledge of how to make pruning cuts
Frequency — Once a year
Where — All US


Prune only summer-blooming varieties in spring — not spring-blooming ones such as lilacs.

For best appearance and fastest healing, make pruning cuts where the tree’s branch you’re removing meets a larger branch. Leave the thick ring, or collar, located where the two branches intersect — it contains the tissue that heals the cut.

  1. Remove damaged or dead branches.
  2. Remove branches that crowd or rub other branches.
  3. If you want to limit the tree’s size or control its shape, study the plant and then select individual branches to cut, rather than cutting all of them to the same length.
    • In most cases, cut the branch where it joins a larger branch.
    • To shorten a tree’s branch without cutting back to the larger branch, cut it 1/4 to 1/2 inch above a bud. Because a new branch will grow from that bud, make sure it faces the correct direction.
  4. (Optional) After pruning trees, clean pruning tools with a stiff brush and a 10 percent solution of alcohol or bleach. Then coat metal parts with a lightweight lubricant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Hand pruners come in two styles. Bypass hand pruners have a scissor-like action and are best for small branches and precision cuts. Anvil hand pruners have a cutting blade that presses against an anvil and are good for larger branches.
  • Cutting trees or shrubs back severely, or cutting back all the branches to the same length, results in both an unnatural look and weak branches.

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