Pruning ornamental shrubs

More light and sun into the crown

All ornamental shrubs need regular pruning to ensure that they retain a pretty shape and don`t use up the space of neighbouring plants. This also helps to prevent plant diseases and pest attacks, since parasites have no chance of survival in bushes and trees with loose, airy crowns. So a good cut at the right time is good all round.

Retain the natural shape of shrubs

Older parts gradually die off on shrubs, whereas new shoots are formed from the rootstock. Leaves are located mainly on the parts of the shrubs which are well exposed to the light. A regular cut not only improves the appearance of the shrub but creates a richer and more beautiful blossom. When cutting, only the most essential should be removed and the natural shape of the shrub should be retained.

Shrubs which should, if possible, be left unpruned.

It´s advisable not to prune rhododendrons and garden azaleas at all. After flowering, it`s only necessary to remove seed heads which weaken the plants – though a rejuvenation of fairly old shrubs is sometimes needed. This pruning should take place in late winter, at which time it`s possible to recognize the buds and protect them. There´s little need for secateurs in Zaubernuss, Corylopsis, sea buckthorn, hibiscus, maple and magnolia – these should be allowed to grow to their heart`s content, and only dry branches should be removed.

Pruning the shrub lianas correctly

It´s not necessary, as a rule, to regularly prune creeping or climbing ornamental shrubs. Not until the growth really takes over do secateurs come into action. Lianas, such as creeping Polygonum and honeysuckle, which form no stem, can also be cut back hard. It`s even possible to prune just above the ground, because they immediately form meter-long shoots again. It`s sufficient just to prune the tips and side shoots of self-adhering climbers such as ivy and Virginia creeper.


Just cut off the tip of stem-Forming lianas which flower for the first time on older wood such as wisteria, because this is where the flower buds form. The wood should not be pruned until after flowering. Don´t prune these shrubs in winter. It is though possible to shorten two or three buds in summer without damaging the plants.

Clematis – it depends on variety

It´s important to remember that spring-flowering varieties of clematis have to be treated differently from the summer bloomers. The spring bloomers should be thinned out only in spring, when the older, stronger wood must be retained. But a more severe cutting back doesn`t affect the summer bloomers - you can even cut into the old wood. This group includes the most common clematis varieties, such as all the so-called Jackmanii forms.

Cutting conifers

Conifers should be cut much less than deciduous trees. This applies particulary to firs and all pillar-shaped growing conifers. But broad-growing juniper species, yews and Scots pines need to be cut more frequently. It´s even possible to cut out complete branch sections from the last two or three year with dwarf mountain pine – without impairing growth and appearance. Of course, all coniferous hedges and artificial shapes – such as spheres, pyramids and animal figures – are cut regularly.

Pruning spring flowering

Spring flowering shrubs include well known shrubs such as privet, ornamental cherries and ornamental plums, forsythia, viburnum and weigela, as well as lilac, broom, ornamental currants and Deutzia. They all form flower buds during the course of the summer. It`s best to prune spring blooms directly after flowering. And anyone who has missed this time can catch up with pruning in winter. But care must be taken that only the dry wood is cut out with a branch-cutter, or that those shoots which cross or rub one another are removed.


It`s easy to recognize at a glance what the gardener calls “old Wood”. It has a dark cortex, whereas the wood which has grown this year will be light in color. Basically, the rule is to remove all flowered shoots down to a few on the outside of the shrub. This enables the young shoots to develop completely.

Special pruning of summer-flowering shrubs

Shrubs which flower in the summer and qutumn should be pruned fairly low in March. Remove the frostbitten branches with a branch-cutter. But note that there are floering shrubs which flower on one and tow-year-old twigs. Shrubs whose one-year-old twigs make your garden look beautiful can be pruned after flowering – but not the others.

Shrubs which flower on one-year-old twigs

Buddleia, sun roses, hibiscus, heather, Panicum, finger shrub, clematis (summer flowering varieties), climbing honeysuckle, creeping Polygonum.

Shrubs which flower on twigs which are several years old

Buddleia, sun roses, hibiscus, heather, Panicum, finger shrub, clematis (summer flowering varieties), climbing honeysuckle, creeping Polygonum.

Cutting deciduous trees

Birch, beech and Co. are among the most easily looked after trees in the garden – because usually they don`t need to be cut. But there are exceptions to this rule – for instance, when branches interfere with a neightbouring plot or stick out into streets and paths, hampering traffic. As with fruit pruning, we recommend that you remove about 2 cm from the trunk of main inward growing branches which cross each other. This helps to create a healthy structure at the tree crown. You`ll need support branch-cutter with a pulling cut and power transmission operated by a double lever. Top products will still safely cut branches up to 5 cm diameter. Use rod cutters for really long, springy branches. Together with a rugged telescopic rod and cable pull, you will safely reach, without a ladder, cutting heights of up to 5 meters. For branch thicknesses of more than 5 cm you`ll need a tree saw with adjustable blade. Thick branches should be sawn from underneath to a third of their diameter – then the cut is finished from above. This helps to avoid tearing off the bark when the branch falls. But remember that if cutting is required, do it before or after shooting and the main growth period. The best time to cut is between November and February. But note that in maple, cherry and birch sap is already rising in January. Because of this, the cutting point should be treated with a wound-sealing agent. If you want to trim your deciduous trees during the summer, then it`s best to do if from the end of July to the beginning of September – during this period there isn`t any risk of damaging the sensitive shoots. In fairly old trees, various root sections come up to the surface, often cracking paved or road surface. No Problem. Simply cut these root sections with heavy, forged branches cutters in the surface region, and cover the cutting point with soil.