Most of you are scared to death of pruning and rightly so. That's because you do it wrong. Have no fear, the Grump in his great beneficence will reveal the path to pruning enlightenment.


When you prune is very important, especially when dealing with flowering trees and shrubs. Prune them at the wrong time and you'll cut off the flower buds and they won't bloom. So before you cut anything, know whether it blooms and when. Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs immediately after they finish blooming. Prune summer- and fall-flowering trees and shrubs in late winter, before they begin the current season's growth. If in doubt, you can never go wrong by pruning a flowering plant right after its final blooms fade.

What about trees and shrubs that don't bloom? When should you prune those? With a few exceptions (noted below), now is a good time. I especially like pruning deciduous trees now, because with the leaves off, you can easily see what needs to be removed.

Plants to Prune Now

1. Crepe myrtle

2. Most roses

3. Chaste tree (Vitex)

4. Peegee hydrangea

5. Oleander

6. Rose-of-Sharon (Althea)

7. Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)

8. Goldenrain tree

9. Pomegranate

10. Abelia

11. Hardy lantana

12. Cape plumbago

13. Most shade trees (see exceptions below)

14. Most fruit trees (thinning branches now removes some flower buds and improves the quality of the fruit)

15. Beautyberry

Prune These After They Bloom

1. Azaleas

2. Rhododendrons

3. Lilac

4. Forsythia, weigela, pearl bush, spirea, deutzia, mockorange, kerria

5. Climbing roses

6. Gardenia

7. Camellia

8. Dogwood

9. Oakleaf hydrangea

10. French Hydrangea

11. Flowering cherry, peach, plum, pear, crabapple, almond, redbud

Prune These Trees in Summer

Certain trees bleed sap profusely if pruned in late winter and early spring, so prune them in summer. They include:

  • Maples
  • Birches
  • Yellowwood

I Give and I Give and I Give

Can't find guidance on when to prune a plant not mentioned here? Ask me. I'm so generous with my knowledge.