Spring Pruning

The dark art of pruning keeps your plants in tip-top condition and creates beautiful flowering displays. During spring the warmer weather through March encourages plants into growth. So it's really important that by then all the old shoots have been removed so that new growth can develop from low down at the base of the plant.

Our spring pruning guide can help you master the art of pruning, setting you up for the full year ahead in your garden. To make this as easy as possible make sure you have the right tools; they really can make all the difference.

What tools you need

  • Pruners

    For pruning branches and stems 22mm to 25mm in diameter.

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  • Universal cutters

    For pruning branches and stems 22mm to 25mm in diameter.

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  • Loppers

    For pruning tree and shrub branches 35mm to 50mm in diameter.

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  • Saws

    For sawing tree and shrub branches up to 220mm in diameter.

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  • Shears

    For pruning hedges and shrubs.

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  • Making pruning easier

    Use sharpeners and oil stones to keep blades of secateurs and knives really sharp, as it's essential to prune with really sharp tools. A blunt knife will achieve nothing more than a mess of your beautiful shrubs.

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    Top tip

    Always take care when handling tools, and wear gloves when pruning roses and thorny plants.

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  • Chop chop

    Pruning fulfils a range of gardening functions including:

    • Creating the shape of the plant we want
    • Controlling the size of plants to prevent them getting too big for our gardens
    • Encouraging new shoots from the right part of the plant to carry flowers
    • Removing old flowering shoots, dead, diseased, crossing or badly positioned shoots
    • Keeping plants youthful, and preventing them getting old, woody and unproductive
  • Prune early spring for a full bloom

    During the first glimmers of spring, start your pruning practice off with a few shrubs. Remember you're removing last years flowering stem to promote new growth. Practice makes perfect.

    • Winter Flowering Heathers (Erica carnea varieties)
    • Hardy Fuchsia
    • Dogwood (Cornus varieties)
    • Bluebeard (Caryopteris)
    • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)
    • Russian Sage (Perovskia)

    In the latter part of spring, when the frosts are well and truly defrosted, it's safe to move onto pruning the more delicate shrubs gracing your garden.

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  • The war of the spring rose

    Pruning Floribunda roses

    These need harder pruning than Hybrid Tea roses. Cut away any dead, damaged, badly positioned or crossing stems. Shorten all remaining stems back to just a few inches above soil level. Make a sloping cut just above an outward facing bud.

    Pruning Hybrid Tea roses

    Remove all damaged, dead, or badly placed shoots. Shorten all stems that grew last year by about half, to around 20-30cm (8-12in) from their base. Always prune just above an outward pointing bud to create open, well-shaped bushes.

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    Top tip

    Spring is a good time to feed shrubs, roses, hedges and other garden plants to provide all the nutrients needed to support strong new growth and flowering. Either scatter a general-purpose powdered or granular feed, like Verve Growmore, over the soil round plants, or drench surrounding soil with a solution of fertiliser, like Miracle-Gro All Purpose Liquid Plant Food, following pack instructions.

  • Flower before June? Don't prune

    When it comes to pruning the clematis try following the general rule that if they flower before June then don't prune. The clematis varieties to prune from late February and through spring include all summer flowering varieties like the glorious large-flowered hybrids.

    All last year's stems and leaves will look dead and brown, but you'll notice new green shoots developing on them. That's new life right there, so cut every shoot back to a pair of new green shoots low down on the stem, perhaps just 30cm (12in) from ground level. Don't be tempted to just snip off the tips of tall stems or new growth will grow up really high, producing flowers well above head height.

    And what's the point in beautiful blooms if you can't smell them?

  • Spring has sprung - pruning in late spring

    The best time to prune your spring and early summer flowering shrubs is immediately after they're finished flowering. The aim of pruning is to remove shoots that carried flowers and promote new growth from lower down on each stem. Help your flowers to continue to bloom, year after year. On established shrubs about a quarter of the very oldest thick, woody stems can be removed completely at their base to make room for strong new growth that will carry flowers right into next spring.

    Shrubs to prune after flowering include:

    • Flowering currant (Ribes)
    • Forsythia
    • Oregon Grape (Mahonia)
    • Deutzia
    • Lilac (Syringa)
    • Kerria
    • Weigela
    • Mock Orange (Philadelphus)

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Good ideas

Recycle garden pruning's by chopping them up into small pieces before adding to your compost heap. Thick and woody stems are best put through an electric shredder first so they're crushed and chopped into small pieces to speed-up the composting process. Sprinkle material with Garotta Compost Maker as it's added too.

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