How to Prune Ornamental Shrubs


Pruning your ornamental shrubs in the spring will promote a strong and hardy plant. Begin pruning before the plant has reached its maximum size to help avoid future problems and to encourage vigorous growth. Always remove and dispose of insect-infected and diseased stems by cutting off the entire branch. Keep your ornamental shrubs in their natural shape and form for a prosperous plant. By following a regular maintenance schedule, you will increase the life span of your shrubs.

Step 1

Prune ornamental shrubs in early spring before new spring growth begins and while the shrubs are still dormant. During this period, it's easier to prune because leaves and buds do not obscure the plant structure.

Step 2

Prune back ornamental shrubs to the first pair of healthy buds facing the outside of the plant. Use pruning shears to cut the branch at the point of origin from the main stem, which allows new growth to develop. Cut on a slight slant 1/4-inch above each pair of buds.

Step 3

Thin out old and weak branches and shoots down to the ground level or back to another main branch. This will encourage better form and strong branch development. Pruning shears are ideal for shrubs and make cuts up to 3/4 inches in diameter.

Step 4

Cut off broken and crossed stems and branches, which can affect the development ornamental shrubs. Remove all dead and diseased branches by removing the entire branch.

Step 5

Prune young shrubs to shape, but don't cut back the central or main branch leader. As the shrub matures and develops, start by removing low branches close to the base of the shrub and around the bottom of the trunk.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never prune your shrub near electrical lines. Always contact your local utility company to assist.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • University of Missouri Extension
  • North Carolina State University
Keywords: pruning shrubs, ornamental shrubs, cutting back 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.