Spring Pruning & What Shrubs to Leave Alone!

Spring Pruning & What Shrubs to Leave Alone!

Spring is coming soon in southern areas and to the coasts. We wait as patiently as possible for it to work its way north from there.

Upon your first spin around your yard in spring you will tend to take your pruning or hedge shears with you. There are many trees and shrubs that will appreciate some necessary pruning, and there are some plants that you should not prune during winter or early spring.

Let’s cover some plants that are best NOT pruned in early spring. Basically, any early spring flowering shrub or tree should not be pruned because you will be removing the flower display – really the whole reason to grow those plants.

Flowering Shrubs to Leave Alone

Azaleas and Rhododendrons

A prime example of a plant that should not be pruned now. Azalea

All of the flower buds are in the tips of each of the branches just waiting for the temperature to warm enough to get those buds moving. Many of the varieties and selections under the Rhododendron umbrella form the flower buds last summer where they remain dormant and hidden away until the spring temperatures allow this Genus of plants to bust out with incredible flower displays.


Pruning is best done right after the flowers begin to fade. Many people don’t think pruning Azaleas and Rhododendrons is necessary, but they respond beautifully to pruning to maintain uniformity and more compact plants. Even the reblooming and everblooming Rhododendrons are best pruned after the first spring bloom.

Flowering Quince

Flowering Quince

These are another early spring blooming shrub that should not be pruned now. There are many new selections of Quince that have been introduced in more recent years. Flowering Quince has beautiful orange,red, salmon, pink, white and many of the new ones are very double. With Quince too, the best time to prune all varieties is right after they flower so sit back and enjoy the flowers before you do any pruning on any of them too. 


Forsythia is another early spring blooming shrub that can have flowers for almost a month before the leaves even emerge! There have been a lot of new selections that have been introduced that stay smaller and produce flowers all along the stems. Forsythia branches can be cut and forced indoors in a vase of water.


As soon as the flowers fade, that is the best time to prune Forsythia. Maybe you have an older overgrown forsythia shrub? As soon as the flowers are done blooming you can cut all of the stem to the ground without sacrificing any bloom for next year too. If it is not that overgrown you can just remove the oldest stems out to the ground and leave the thinner, younger stems to allow the plant to keep its more natural form.


Both tree form and shrub form lilacs are another broad group encompassing many different species, hybrids and cultivars. Nature Hills offers early blooming, mid-season, and even Canadian selections that bloom very late spring. With all Lilacs, do not trim them now. Lilac plants make their flowers in the growth that follows after the blooms are done. Lilacs 


So, with each Lilac, wait until the flowers are done blooming - and then prune. With lilac shrubs, renewal pruning by removing the oldest stems out to the ground leaving the younger stems in place. For re-blooming varieties, it is best to also renewal prune them right after the first set of flowers for super results.


These shrubs have had a lot of breeding done for smaller sizes, unique leaf color and lots of bloom. Although Weigela are very floriferous, the best flowers are born on last year’s stems. It is important to let the late spring blooms come before you do pruning on them.

After the flowers finish, then you can prune any stems that need shortening or some of the older stems can be removed right down to the ground. The beauty of most selections of Weigela is they bloom heavily in late spring, and again later in summer.

It is best to make a note of the best time to prune some of your favorite flowering shrubs so that you are not sacrificing the blooms. It’s also helpful to keep in mind some plant types have different subgroups that need to be pruned at different times like hydrangeas. We have some helpful resources for those of you looking to tackle pruning hydrangea. 

An early happy spring from your friends at Nature Hills!

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