How to Prune a Shrub


Promote plant growth and appearance by pruning your shrubs. Pruning during the young years of a shrub's life can help to prevent problems later. Removing diseased branches, and cutting back old and dead growth helps the shrub to develop and produce fruit. View your pruning as a regular part of the shrubs' maintenance to ensure a healthy and vigorous plant.

Step 1

Prune back branches that do not fit the natural form or create odd shapes. Each type of plant is distinguished by its shape and form, so keep this in mind.

Step 2

Cut back shrubs in the late winter to early spring before new growth begins. During this dormant period, it's easier to prune without the interference of buds and leaves. The rule of thumb is to prune back no more than 2 to 4 feet from the ground.

Step 3

Use pruning shears to thin out the oldest and tallest branches and stems. This will promote strong branch development.

Step 4

Prune back hardy shrubs to the first pair of buds. Cut the branch at the main point of origin from the main part of the stem. This will create a more open plant without unnecessary new growth, which causes shrubs to become top heavy.

Step 5

Remove all broken and crossed branches, which can affect the development of the shrub. Cut back dead branches that have been infected by disease and insects.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune your shrubs near electrical wires, which could cause serious injury. Always contact your local utility company for advice and assistance.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • University of Minnesota Extension
  • North Carolina State University
Keywords: pruning shrubs, cutting shrubs, removing branches

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.