How to Trim Shrubs in the Fall


Late fall is one of the best times to prune ornamental shrubs. Many shrubs are deciduous, which means they lose their leaves in the fall. Once the leaves fall from the shrubs, the structure of the plant becomes more visible. Another reason fall is a good time to prune shrubs is because most shrubs go dormant for the winter at that point. Shrubs pruned while they are dormant are more likely to remain healthy.

Step 1

Sharpen your pruning shears to avoid bruising the shrub.

Step 2

Mix a solution containing 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Use the solution to sterilize your pruning shears between each cut on the shrubs to avoid the spread of diseases.

Step 3

Plan your entire pruning process before you make your first cut. This will help to ensure that you don't remove too many branches or the wrong branches.

Step 4

Remove all diseased, broken or dead branches.

Step 5

Remove weak or spindly growth.

Step 6

Remove branches that rub one another or cross the central canopy.

Step 7

Thin the canopy of densely growing shrubs. This will allow the lower limbs to get more light and develop more fully.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never remove more than 1/3 of a shrub during any single pruning session. Doing so can damage the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Sharpener
  • Bleach


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

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: pruning deciduous shrubs, maintaining landscaping plants, pruning woody perennials

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."