How to Cut Back Shrubs


Properly pruning shrubs will maintain the plant and create a beautiful landscape. Cutting back old growth helps the shrub flower and develop, and extends its life. Cut the shrub in a natural form. Over-pruning adversely affects the shrub's growth and future development. Prune shrubs in late winter or early spring to encourage good branch structure.

Step 1

Prune shrubs in the late winter to early spring before new growth begins. During this time, it's easier to prune without leaves and buds obstructing the plant-branch arrangement.

Step 2

Using pruning shears, thin out the tallest and oldest stems first. This will lead to hearty branch development. Pruning shears can cut up to 3/4 inches in diameter and are ideal for shrubs.

Step 3

Hardy shrubs such as hydrangeas should be cut back to the first pair of buds. Cut the branch at its point of origin from the main stem, resulting in a more open plant without promoting excessive new growth, which can make the plant top heavy.

Step 4

Prune deciduous shrubs by thinning branches of any broken or crossed roots. Cut back dead branches that have been infected by disease and insects.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune near electrical wires. Always contact your local utility company to assist.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Shrubs


  • University of Minnesota Extension
Keywords: pruning shurbs, cutting shrubs, branch removal

About this Author

Callie Barber has been writing professionally since 2002. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate indoor and outdoor living environments. Her articles have appeared on and Barber holds a Bachelors of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina.