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.
Tools & materials required
Early spring pruning
During the first glimmers of spring, start your pruning practice off with a few hardier shrubs. Remember you’re removing last years flowering stem to promote new growth. Examples of shrubs that you can prune early are:
- Winter Flowering Heathers (Erica carnea varieties)
- Dogwood (Cornus varieties)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)
- Hardy Fuchsia
- Bluebeard (Caryopteris)
- 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.
A thorn in your side
Take a walk around your garden to assess what sizes the branches are before you start the job.
|What am I cutting?||Cutting Diameter||You need...|
|Branches & stems||22 to 25 mm||Pruners|
|Tree and shrub branches||35 to 50 mm||Loppers|
|Hedges & shrubs||Shears|
|High tree & branches||Up to 32mm||Universal Cutter|
|Tree & shrub branches||Up to 220mm||Saws|
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. With this in mind, always take care when handling tools and wear gloves when pruning roses and thorny plants.
Chop, Chop. Why Prune?
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
How to to prune roses
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?
To prune 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.
To prune 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.
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.
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; helping 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)
- Oregon Grape (Mahonia)
- Lilac (Syringa)
- Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
Top Pruning 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.
Spring forward with a few 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.
Pruning, the gift that keeps on giving.