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How to Prune Potentilla Shrubs

By Melody Lee ; Updated September 21, 2017

Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa), also known as Shrubby Cinquefoil, comes in more than 100 varieties. Potentilla shrubs grow from 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 5 feet wide, depending on the variety. The yellow, white or red flowers bloom on the current season’s growth, so prune the plants in late winter or early spring before the new growth starts. Do not severely prune and shape Potentillas, since they have a loose, open form. Rejuvenate straggly and ragged plants every 3 to 4 years to encourage vigorous new growth.

Cut limbs larger than 1/2 inch in diameter with lopping shears. Cut smaller limbs with hand pruners. Cut limbs at a 30 degree angle near a bud or joint.

Remove dead, damaged or diseased limbs at ground level with lopping shears or hand pruners. Signs of disease are moldy, peeling bark, cankers, splits in the bark or wood and dead foliage.

Cut back older, nonproductive limbs within 6 inches of ground level with hand pruners or lopping shears.

Prune any limbs that obstruct walkways within 6 inches of ground level with lopping shears or hand pruners.

Rejuvenate older plants that have lost their vigor by removing all the limbs within 6 inches of the ground with lopping shears or hand pruners. The plant will develop new growth for a healthier and more attractive plant.


Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Lopping shears


  • Do not remove more than 1/3 of the plant during one season.
  • You can prune Potentillas any time, but the plants may have fewer blooms or not bloom at all the following year.
  • Clean debris from around plant. Destroy dead or diseased trimmings to prevent the spread of disease. Shred and compost healthy green trimmings.

About the Author


Melody Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 30 years of gardening experience. She currently works as a writer and copy editor. Her previous jobs include reporter, photographer and editor for a weekly newspaper.