What to PRUNE and WHEN…

What to PRUNE and WHEN…

We often get several questions on pruning, so here is a simple guide to make sure you are pruning at the proper time.  Wondering about something not listed?  Leave a comment!

All plants that bloom in early spring will bloom on old wood (last year's growth).  With that said, if you prune an early spring flowering plant before it blooms, you are likely removing buds that will produce a flower.  Obviously if you must prune these plants due to space constraints, that is okay.  Realize they will have fewer or possibly no flowers.

Plants to Prune ONLY After They Bloom

  • -Azalea
  • -Rhododendron
  • -Lilac
  • -Forsythia
  • -Quince
  • -Magnolia
  • -Bridal Wreath Spirea
  • -Early Spring Bloomers


Prune Very Little and ONLY to Shape in Spring


Prune These in early spring (April)

  • -Spirea
  • -Potentilla
  • -Red or Yellow Twig Dogwood (old canes)
  • -Juniper
  • -Yew
  • -Rose of Sharon (Althea)
  • -Knockout Roses
  • -Tea Roses
  • -Smaller Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
  • -Ninebark
  • -Perennials (including grasses)


When pruning spirea or potentilla, it is okay to cut them back to a few inches above the ground.  This will help rejuvenate the plant and remove all dead wood from inside the shrub.

If you are pruning red or yellow twig dogwood, you will often notice some dark or tan stems before the leaves have opened.  It is best to remove the stems that are not red or yellow to help preserve the beautiful winter interest.  Often times, these dark or tan stems are actually deadwood and will not have leaves.


Pruning Ornamental Trees

For most trees, it is best to prune during the dormant season.  This will prevent disease and insect infestations, since these pests and diseases are inactive during the winter.  Only prune oak trees in late December to early February to avoid Oak Wilt.


Pruning Fruit Trees

When pruning fruit trees, it is best to prune right before the buds begin to leaf out in early spring.  Typically in Iowa, this means anytime between late February to early April.


Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees will vary on when to prune.  Check out this excellent article for in depth details.

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