Pruning helps keep a shrub healthy by opening the plant's interior to light and air circulation. With shrubs, even a little extra growth can make them look leggy, so pruning keeps them looking neat and compact. Prune shrubs annually in March in Minnesota as part of your spring yard clean up. Pruning before the winter can promote new growth that will die in frost. Pruning in late spring is challenging, since the shrubs have leafed out.
Inspect the shrubs for dead, diseased or damaged branches. Remove dead, damaged and unhealthy wood to keep the shrub happy.
Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water in a bucket. Place your pruning tools in the bucket.
Clip off dead and unhealthy wood at its base, using the sterilized pruners. Prune back to a lateral branch, if only the tip is damaged. Place the pruners back in the bleach solution to sanitize them after each cut.
Cut off branches that crisscross others, as the rubbing can damage the wood.
Trim back the tips of long branches to control the shrub's size, working one at a time. Don't use hedge clippers. Make each cut at a 45-degree angle.
Thin out up to 1/3 of the old growth in a season to rejuvenate the shrub. Clip off old growth at its base. Choose weak thin stems and large stems that produce few foliage or flowers.