Plants You Should Never Prune In The Winter

If you are wondering about pruning certain plants in the winter, there are definitely pitfalls to avoid.

The nights are getting longer, the temperatures are getting colder, and the garden is looking bleak. There's no denying it—winter is coming and your garden is going to need a little help.

To Shear or Not to Shear?

While non-plant lovers may not realize it, winter is a very busy time in the garden, even though most plants are dormant. Winter is when you should clean up beds, cut back ornamental grasses and perennials, tend to fruiting shrubs, and there are plants you should always prune in winter (we have a list right here).

Pruning Sheers During Winter

While many plants and trees can and should be pruned in fall or winter, before the new season's growth begins and after the final bloom of the year, there are other plants that should absolutely be left alone. Scroll through this list of plants that your shears need to avoid in the colder months. We are sure you will find at least one that you are already tending to in your yard.

Summer Flowering Shrubs

While summer flowering shrubs can be pruned at the tail-end of winter or early spring, we're including them here, as picking up the shears in the middle of the cold season is a big no-no. Pruning at the end of winter or beginning of spring still gives them time to set flowers for the following year. Deciduous shrubs that aren't grown for flowers can be trimmed back at the same time.

Rochester Lilac Festival, New York
Karen Hatch/Getty Images


The best time to prune them is late spring, immediately after they finish blooming. If you prune later in the year, you may risk removing the buds that you have waited so long to cultivate.


It is a good rule of thumb to prune clematis after they finish blooming. However, you need to understand what type of clematis you are tending to. The timing of the blooming and the duration can vary. Do your homework to ensure you are pruning at the proper time.


Like with other spring-blooming plants, don't trim jasmine in winter or you may not have flowers come spring. On the other hand, don't forget that there is a variety call winter jasmine that will bloom during the colder months that will put you in a flowery, sunny mood in the midst of gray days.

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Honeysuckle is deeply heat tolerant, which makes it a popular vine to include in your landscaping. The scent is heavenly, and the plant can often be smelled before it is seen. The best time to prune spring-blooming shrubs is right after the spring blooms fade.


Never cut back into old wood, as this can kill rosemary plants. You can accomplish minor pruning in the early spring when harvesting. The heavy pruning can take place in the fall when you are trying to control size, but allow at least a month for the plant to adjust before frost occurs.


If you cut lavender too early, you'll cut off the buds that would've opened this spring. Be sure and do it correctly, as there are so many wonderful uses for lavender. You can use it in the kitchen, as a natural bug repellant, or for an alluring aromatherapy session.

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If you prune them later in the growing season or during winter, you'll remove flower buds and decrease the amount of spring blooms. There are many components to rhododendron success that go way beyond pruning. Read through these tips to be sure you are leaning in the right direction.


Like other spring-blooming plants, if you prune a forsythia in winter, you may remove flower buds. Bear in mind that forsythia loves at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. If you are able to place your shrubs properly, you will get the most out of the blooms when they are in season.


Trimming a magnolia in winter could cost you the buds that were destined to bloom into glorious flowers. Did you know that magnolias are indigenous only to Southern China and the Southern United States? Here in the South, everyone seems to have a favorite variety of this glorious blossom. Learn more about magnolias here.


As with spring-flowering shrubs, these trees that bloom in early spring should be left alone in winter so buds can grow, leading to flowers in spring. Dogwood is hardy from the Upper Midwest down to the Gulf Coast, but don't let the wide range fool you. Nursery-grown trees from the North do better in the North than ones grown in the South and vice-versa.

Okame Flowering Cherry
This tree blooms early, often by Valentine's Day in Zone 8, so it is easy to understand why people look at it as a harbinger of spring. Gorgeous, deep pink blossoms open before the leaves appear. In fall, the leaves turn orange-red. This tree grows quickly so, once planted, you won't have to wait long for the show. nickkurzenko/Getty Images

Cherry and Pear Trees

Prune these trees after they bloom or risk cutting down your summer fruit harvest. Cherry blossoms emerge through several shades of pink, and you certainly don't want to miss the show.


Along with birches, elms, and other so-called "bleeder" trees, pruning maples in winter can lead to a great deal of sap. Wait until summer to avoid a possible mess. There are several varieties of maple trees, and choosing the one that is best for you might very well have to do the blaze of color that is offered in the fall.


Avoid pruning these blooms in the winter as it may stunt their springtime growth. Don't forget that azaleas are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Plan carefully when you are trying to determine where these beautiful shrubs should be placed.

Some Rose Varieties

Certain roses like damasks, climbers, and old garden varieties only bloom once a year, so winter pruning may cost you your flowers. Instead, only prune in the summer once they have flowered.

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