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When to Prune Flowering Shrubs

March 16, 2021
Written by Aaron

Figuring out when to prune all the different flowering shrubs on your property can be tricky, especially if they’re flowering at different times. Some shrubs bloom on old wood from the year before and some bloom on their fresh spring growth. Poorly-timed pruning can result in a flowerless shrub, so you’ve got to be careful. To save you the guesswork and Googling, we compiled a list of the most common flowering shrubs and exactly when you should prune them.

When to Prune

  • Bluebeard: We love the late season colour this sapphire-tinted shrub brings to the landscape. Since it doesn’t flower until around August or September, you can prune it now in March or April, right at the first sign of new growth.

  • Butterfly Bush: Technically, you can prune this flowering shrub any time of year, but it’s recommended that you do it in late winter while the plant is dormant. This will ensure the healthiest growth and the most flowers. However, if you give it a little bit of a trim while it’s in its active growing phase, it should fill out with new growth and blooms within a matter of weeks. 

butterfly bush and camellia flowers

  • Daphne: Generally, you don’t need to prune daphne very often because it grows quite slowly. If it’s starting to grow into another plant, you can prune it to avoid any complications from rubbing, tangled branches. Prune them in summer after the blooms fade but only if necessary.

  • Dogwood: Never prune dogwood in the spring or summer! This can make it vulnerable to disease. Instead, the best time to prune is late fall or winter, when the temperature is cooler, and your plant has gone dormant. This way, it won’t leak out any of its sap, which increases the risk of infection.

  • Forsythia: This spring-blooming shrub should not be pruned in spring, or else you’ll end up cutting off all the flower buds. Wait until summer once it has finished flowering. 

forsythia and honeysuckle flowers

  • Honeysuckle: Honeysuckle shrubs (not to be confused with honeysuckle vines) are best pruned in winter when they’re dormant. They can handle a lot of pruning, and it makes a big difference in the volume of your plant.

  • Hydrangeas: Summer-blooming hydrangea varieties like Hydrangea paniculata need to be pruned in March. Prune spring bloomers like Hydrangea macrophylla in the summer after their blooms fade; they develop their flower buds on old wood. 

  • Lilacs: These fragrant shrubs are some of the first to start flowering in spring, so they might be ready for you to prune by the end of spring around early June. Otherwise, you can wait until summer to prune, as they bloom on old wood.

  • Magnolia: Midsummer or fall is typically when magnolia flowers start to disappear. Prune them once they’ve finished blooming, and avoid pruning in winter or early spring. 

magnolia and rose blooms

  • Rose Bushes: Prune your roses in March or April before they start blooming. In summer, while they’re actively in bloom, you can trim off the dead flowers to encourage more flowers.

  • Rose of Sharon: This hardy flowering shrub isn’t too picky about when it should be pruned. You can prune it in late summer after its blooms fade, in fall or winter when it’s dormant, or in very early spring before new growth appears. 

  • Smoke Tree: Sometimes, you can prune your smokebush in early spring if there are no signs of new buds yet. However, it’s typically best to prune it in winter, just to be on the safe side. 

  • Spirea: You’ll want to prune your spirea shrubs twice a year for the best results. Do one major pruning in winter to keep the shape compact and encourage fuller growth. Then, do a little tidy-up after it has finished blooming. Spirea responds pretty well to pruning, so don’t be afraid to get in there with the shears! 

spirea and summersweet flowers

  • Summersweet: Winter or very early spring is the best time to prune summersweet because you want to do it before new growth appears. 

  • Weigela: These early bloomers will be ready for a cleanup at the end of spring, right after their blooms fade. Don’t do it at the start of the season, or you’ll lose out on its gorgeous flowers!


Do you have any other flowering shrubs that aren’t on this list, and you’re unsure of when to prune them? Feel free to contact us at our greenhouse and we’ll be happy to find the answer for you! 

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