Trimming Shrubs in Spring or Fall


Proper shrub trimming keeps your landscape plants looking their best. It also prevents damage and disease caused by overgrowth or infected wood being left on the plant. Every shrub variety has specific requirements when it comes to timing a shrub. Some shrubs do best with spring pruning, while others prefer fall or year-round pruning. In general, shrubs should be cleaned up from winter in the spring before they begin actively growing again, then pruned again in fall after they finish flowering or before they develop new leaf buds to control their shape.

Step 1

Cut out any damaged or dead branches from the shrub with a pair of clippers in either spring or fall. Cut the branches off where they emerge from the main stem or just above a leaf set or bud on the nearest length of healthy wood.

Step 2

Thin the interior of the plant to provide air circulation in spring while the shrub is still dormant. Cut out crossed or rubbing branches with a pair of loppers. Cut these branches off flush with the main stem they are attached to or cut them off flush with an outward-facing bud.

Step 3

Cut back overgrown branches on the sides and top of the shrub in fall before the plant goes dormant, or in spring before the plant begins actively growing again. Trim off uneven top growth with a pair of loppers, cutting the branches back to within ¼ inch of a leaf or bud. Trim the sides of the shrub in the same manner, using either clippers or loppers.

Step 4

Remove any suckers at the base of the shrub. Cut these off at soil level so they do not develop into secondary trunks. Suckers are small branches that grow up from the base of the trunk. These usually form in spring shortly after the shrub begins actively growing again, but they may also need trimming in fall.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid spreading disease from sick shrubs to healthy plants. Rinse trimming equipment in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water to sterilize.

Things You'll Need

  • Clippers
  • Loppers


  • Texas A&M Extension: Proper Pruning Techniques
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: spring shrub trimming, fall shrub trim, pruning shrubs

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.