How to Prune Shrubs & Bushes


Pruning shrubs and bushes encourages flower development, maintaining the tree shape, controlling the size and removing dead or diseased branches. The main purpose of pruning older shrubs and bushes is to thin out the plant to improve air circulation through the plant. Shrubs and bushes that flower should be pruned in the winter or early spring, and directly after flowering, says Purdue University Extension.

Step 1

Prune out dead or broken branches at the time of planting, recommends the University of Minnesota Extension. This prevents the development of disease.

Step 2

Pinch new growth from the end of shoots back to a leaf node to promote side growth and flowering in shrubs and bushes.

Step 3

Thin out the shrub or bush annually, cutting branches back to 1/4 of an inch above an active bud. Cutting above a healthy bud prevents die back of the branch and encourages new branch development, says Purdue University.

Step 4

Remove one third of the oldest, thickest stems or trunks annually from overgrown shrubs and bushes, cutting the stem to the ground. Use loppers or a hand saw to remove larger branches to prevent tearing or removal of bark.

Step 5

Stand back from the shrub or bush and look at the natural shape of the plant, and remove branches to improve the natural shape. Begin shaping in the third year of growth, suggests the Texas A & M.

Step 6

Prune half of the new growth from a new or young shrub or bush late in the first season of growth. recommends Texas A & M University.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Hand saw
  • Pole pruner
  • Hedge shears
  • Lopping shear
  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves


  • Agrilife - Texas A & M Extension: Proper Pruning Technique
  • University of Missouri Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • Purdue University Extension: Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: prune shrubs, prune bushes, pruning technique

About this Author

Cleveland Van Cecil is a freelancer writer specializing in technology. He has been a freelance writer for three years and has published extensively on, writing articles on subjects as diverse as boat motors and hydroponic gardening. Van Cecil has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Baldwin-Wallace College.