How to Prune Shrubs


Encourage shrub growth and overall appearance by pruning your shrubs. Pruning in the beginning stage of the shrub's life can thwart off future problems and help give the shrub a strong base. Always cut off and properly remove all diseased branches to help the shrub flower and fruit. Keeping the shrub in its natural form helps to keep the plant growing strong. Do not over prune your shrub, which can have a detrimental affect on the plant and its growth. By properly pruning your shrubs, you will ensure a strong and long lived plant.

Step 1

Prune shrubs in the late winter to early spring before new spring growth begins. During this dormant period, it's easier to prune without leaves and buds obscuring the plant structure.

Step 2

Use pruning shears to thin out old branches throughout the crown. This will promote better form and strong branch development. Pruning shears are ideal for shrubs and create cuts up to ¾ inches in diameter.

Step 3

Prune back thick shrubs to the first pair of buds facing the outside of the plant. Cut the branch at the point of origin from the main stem or "parent" stem. This will result in a more open shrub without stimulating new growth, which causes shrubs to become dense and top heavy.

Step 4

Remove all broken and crossed branches, which can affect the development and growth of the shrub. Cut back all dead and diseased branches by removing the entire branch.

Step 5

Prune young shrubs to shape but don't trim back the main stem leader. As the shrub develops, start by removing low branches and ones located close to the trunk.

Tips and Warnings

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

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Minnesota Extension
Keywords: pruning shrubs, cutting shrubs, caring for shrubs

About this Author

Callie Barber is a writer and photographer in North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Forbes and Automotive News magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.