How to Correct the Pruning of Shrubs


Novice gardeners can make a lot of mistakes when pruning shrubs. Shearing the shrub and letting it go too long without a trim create lots of wayward growth. Removing the wrong wood can alter the natural beauty in the shape of your shrub. To correct the pruning of shrubs, learn what to avoid in the future and slowly shape the shrub over one to two seasons to get the plant looking good again.

Step 1

Look for dead branches on your shrub, since these need to be removed for the health of the plant. Dead branches feel hollow to the touch and won't move with the wind.

Step 2

Clip off dead branches at the base with anvil pruners or lopping shears if the branch is thicker than 1 inch. Don't cut into the swollen tissues just before the trunk, since this area will heal over and protect the plant.

Step 3

Remove all dead wood in this manner. Then clip off weak, thin branches in the same manner. Do not remove more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood at one time, advises the University of Arizona.

Step 4

Wait until the following year to remove additional wood if your shrub needs more care. Them remove another 1/3 of the poor-growing or poor-quality wood in the same manner you did before.

Step 5

Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs until after the shrub has flowered for the season. If you pruned a flowering shrub at the wrong time in the past you'll get fewer blossoms. This can be corrected in subsequent seasons by pruning after the flowers drop.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never shear a shrub with hedge clippers. This makes the shrub look ugly, but it also promotes excessive new growth which can be difficult to manage going forward.

Things You'll Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears


  • University of Arizona: Backyard Gardener-Shrub Pruning
Keywords: shrub pruning, fix bad shrub, improper shrub pruning

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.