How to Prune Shrubs After a Hard Freeze


Shrubs require pruning throughout the year to shape them properly and to promote flower growth. When a shrub is damaged by a hard freeze, the water inside the branches becomes ice crystals, killing the cells around it. Some gardeners become anxious when a tree is damaged due to a hard freeze and are quick to break out the pruning shears to remove the deadwood. Patience and a proper pruning technique will save the shrub from further damage.

Step 1

Wait until the shrub begins to sprout new growth in the spring before considering pruning the shrub, recommends the University of Florida.

Step 2

Prune back dead or damaged branches until you see green wood, says the University of Florida Extension. Texas A&M University suggests making cuts back to an active bud, making the cut at a 45 degree angle as close to the bud as possible. This promotes side growth and ensures you hit living wood.

Step 3

Trim deciduous shrubs once they begin to show leaves in early February, cutting any branches that are thinner than a finger. Focus on smaller branches, as cutting large branches too early in the season makes wounds that are difficult to heal. Cut large, freeze-damaged branches during the summer once the tree has had time to recover from the winter weather.

Step 4

Rub dead leaves between the hand to crumble them into pieces, recommends the University of Kentucky. This removes the potential for disease. Wear gloves for spiky or thorny shrubs.

Step 5

Cut severely damaged young shrubs that are not growing back to the ground and train a new leader, recommends the University of Kentucky. This allows you to start the shrub over without replacing it.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning loppers
  • Pruning saw


  • University of Florida Extension: After the Freeze
  • University of Kentucky: Freeze Damage--What now?
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: pruning shrubs, shrubs hard freeze, freeze damaged shrubs, prune freeze-damaged shrub

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.