Spring Pruning Guide: Plants You Should Prune In Early Spring

(Image credit: Olga Seifutdinova)

Spring is a great time to plant most trees and shrubs, but pruning in this season isn’t for every plant. Some trees are best pruned just after flowering in summer, others in the heart of winter. But there are trees and shrubs that do best when pruned in early spring.

Which are the plants to consider for spring pruning? Read on for more information.

Pruning Trees in Spring

Spring pruning should be on the calendar for some trees, but not all. Spring flowering plants that bloom on old wood (like azaleas, dogwood and camellia) are best pruned in the summer after they have flowered. However, if they are overgrown and neglected, rejuvenation pruning is in order and spring is the best time to proceed. 

Deciduous shade trees like birch and maples, and evergreens like juniper and yew should also be pruned very early in spring if you haven’t done it in winter. Oak trees must be pruned in winter to avoid oak wilt, a lethal disease spread by insects that appear in spring. 

Pruning Shrubs in Spring

Shrubs and trees that flower in summer on the current year’s growth include crape myrtle, buddleia and althea. These should be pruned in late winter or early spring. This is also the best time to prune deciduous shrubs that aren’t grown for their flowers. 

What about spring-blooming shrubs? Pruning lilacs in spring is recommended, as is pruning forsythia, weigela and Japanese quince. These should be pruned near the base within a few weeks after the petals drop. However, careful with pruning hydrangeas in spring. Only trim back panicle hydrangea and smooth hydrangea in spring.

Pruning Roses in Spring

Spring is a great time to trim back repeat-blooming roses. These are roses like knock outs, floribunda and tea roses. The optimal pruning time is just as the buds appear and break dormancy. 

Roses that only flower once should be pruned after their blooms fade. But you can do spring pruning on climbing roses. Thin out the older canes in April or May, leaving only younger branches. These long, new branches flower best.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.