How to Prune: Ornamental Trees and Shrubs

Last Updated on 28/04/2020 by Shannen Godwin

Ornamental Trees and Shrubs


Ornamental trees and shrubs can be pruned and trimmed to keep healthy and shapely.

Timing can vary significantly between different varieties, but as a general rule:

Evergreen shrubs will require little pruning unless branches become damaged. If you do find the need to remove damaged shoots on varieties such as Japanese AzaleasHebe Heartbreaker or Rhododendrons then it’s best to do so after flowering has finished for the season.










Deciduous shrubs and trees are best pruned in late autumn and winter, although we always recommend checking specific varieties before your start working. Some varieties will only need minor trimming such as Hydrangeas or Spiraea while clematis and climbing plants often require hard pruning.


As a starting point cut back and remove all dead and diseased wood. Always work with the natural habit and structure of the tree or shrub, to encourage continued natural growth. This can be followed up with removing any crossing or rubbing branches at the centre of the plant. By removing these branches which can act as a barrier to further growth, you will in fact improve circulation around the shrubs/tree, helping to reduce the likelihood of plant disease.

When removing stems, we suggest cutting at a little above healthy buds, cutting back around 0.5cm above. Never cut back and leave short stubs. Make all cuts perpendicular to the branch and close to the branch collar to facilitate rapid healing.

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7 thoughts on “How to Prune: Ornamental Trees and Shrubs”

  1. I would appreciate your advice as to the best time to prune a flowering cherry as there appears to be a lot of contradictory advice out there.

    many thanks…John

    1. Hi,

      The best time is just after the tree finishes flowering – lightly at this time, if you need to do more drastic pruning for shape and size do that only when the tree is dormant. Hope that is helpful.

      Note: With the Amanogawa variety if you prune the leading branch it will send up a few more, which will lead to a bushy version of the tree rather than a columnar one.

  2. I have a edge like the Rosa Rugosa but it is getting a bit spindly I am thinking of bolstering it up with your Rosa plants will it be easy to plant the new ones between the old. Incidently what is the ideal height these should be grown. Mine is 4/5ft which means the folliage is at the top and the base is very thin.

    1. Hello,

      With Rosa Rugosa the ideal height is around 4ft. To tend to your current plants the best thing would be to prune them down to three/three and a half foot (ideally you would do this in November just after the berries but it should be ok to do this now if you get on to it quickly before new growth). Take out the leaders and you should start to get a better spreading growth and then keep it to 4ft in future which should help prevent it from becoming top heavy.

      With planting extra plants through the old one – if you have left a gap of 3 to 3.5ft between each plant then you should be able to fit some in between, you will need to feed them – but if the gaps are smaller the root systems would probably hinder the new plants. Generally you would want the plants about 12in apart to get a good bushy effect.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  3. I’ve an Amanogawa Tree it’s just finishing flowering. When’s and where is it beat to prune the branches, there are a few branches just above ground level have these to be pruned too?

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