How to Prune Shrubs in the Winter


Late winter just before the first growth of spring is an ideal time to prune shrubs, according to Minnesota State University Extension. Most plants go dormant from late fall until early spring, and the sap level is low during winter months. Pruning in late winter means the shrubs are less likely to "bleed," or "weep" sap that attracts bugs. Late-winter pruning also helps many plants avoid infection, bacterial diseases, cankers, wilt diseases and physiological problems.

Step 1

Mix a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Soak a clean cloth in this solution.

Step 2

Swipe your bleach-soaked cloth along the blades of your pruning instruments between each cut to prevent the spread of diseases.

Step 3

Sharpen each of your pruning tools before pruning your shrub to avoid bruising or injuring the tree.

Step 4

Remove branches that attach to a central trunk at a 45-degree sloping angle away from the trunk. Start at a point just outside of the growth ridge in the fork of the shrub and cut downward and away.

Step 5

Prune all shrub growth back once it reaches its desired height. Prune shrubs 6 to 8 inches every time they grow another 6 to 8 inches, not just once yearly in winter. Prune back shrubs to within 2 inches of the last pruning cut.

Step 6

Remove more of a hedge at the top than at the base so that all parts of the shrub receive sunlight and the shrub does not become leggy.

Step 7

Remove up to one-third of the oldest, thickest stems on the shrub. Prune these stems back to the base of the trunk or down to the ground. This is called renewal trimming, and encourages new shrub growth from the roots of the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Branch loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears
  • Hedge shears
  • Sharpeners
  • Bleach
  • Clean cloth


  • Iowa State University Extension: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • Texas A&M Extension: Follow Proper Pruning Techniques

Who Can Help

  • NC State University: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: pruning shrubs, raising shrubs, growing shrubs

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."