How to Cut Shrubs


Properly pruning shrubs will maintain the plant and create an attractive and inviting landscape. Cutting back old growth helps the shrub flower, grow and develop, and extends its life. Prune the shrub in a natural shape. Over pruning adversely affects the shrub's development and future growth. Prune shrubs in late winter or early spring to encourage adequate branch structure.

Step 1

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

Step 2

Use pruning shears to thin out the tallest and oldest stems first. This will encourage hardy branch development. Pruning shears have the capability of cutting up to 3/4 inches in diameter and are ideal for shrubs.

Step 3

Prune back hardy shrubs, such as butterfly bushes, to the first pair of buds. Cut the branch at its point of origin from the main part of the stem. This will create a more open plant without promoting excessive new growth, which can cause the plant to be top heavy.

Step 4

Prune deciduous shrubs by thinning branches of all broken or crossed roots, which can affect the growth of the shrub. Cut back dead branches that have been infected by insects and disease.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune near electrical wires, which could create a serious hazard. Always contact your local utility company to assist in the process.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Shrubs


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • North Carolina State University: Pruning Shrubs

Who Can Help

  • How to Prune Small Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: cutting shrubs, pruning shrubs, removing branches

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.