How to Prune Overgrown Ornamental Shrubs


Pruning maintains the shape of your ornamental shrubs. It may also improve bloom quality and quantity on flowering shrubs and encourage healthy foliage growth on non-flowering ornamentals. Most shrubs are pruned in spring before new growth begins, though some flowering shrubs may require pruning in summer after flowering is over. Pruning at the wrong time may inhibit flowering for a year but rarely leads to permanent damage. Generally, early spring flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering, and all other shrubs are pruned before active growth begins in spring.

Step 1

Cut out any dead or damaged branches with a pair of shears. Cut the branches back to the main trunk or cut them off within 1/4 inch of a bud on the nearest healthy wood. Cut branches back to within the bushes foliage so the cut ends aren't visible once the shrub leafs out.

Step 2

Thin the interior of the shrub, providing better air circulation and light penetration. Cut out any crossed branches, especially those that are rubbing together, down to the main stem. Trim out up to one-third of the shrub's interior branches if it is densely overgrown.

Step 3

Trim the top of the bush to the desired height with a pair of pruning loppers. Cut the branches back to within 1 inch of a bud or side branch. Prune all the branches on top to an even height or trim the top of the shrub so it is rounded evenly.

Step 4

Cut back the sides of the shrubs to even up any overgrown branches and to control the width of the shrub. Prune each branch back to the nearest lateral branch. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle within 1/4 inch of the lateral branch. The branch camouflages the cut end.

Tips and Warnings

  • Not all shrubs are pruned the same. Check the specific needs of your particular shrub variety to avoid damaging the plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers


  • University of Missouri Extension: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
  • Iowa State University: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
Keywords: pruning overgrown shrubs, ornamental shrub trimming, prune landscape 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.