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Shrub Pruning Tips

Sheridan, AR -  I’ve always heard that pruning is an art, and after trying to prune my own shrubs and trees, I believe it.  However, with some basic tips you can become a pruning artist yourself.  

          One of the myths about pruning is that all pruning has to be done in the winter.  This is not necessarily true.  Another myth is that plants will die if pruned at the wrong time of the year.  This also is not true, plants may be injured, but seldom, if ever, are they killed by pruning at the wrong time of year.  The time of pruning should be based on the type of growth desired and flowing habits.  Soon it will be time to prune some of our spring flowering trees and shrubs.

         The forsythias have been beautiful this year with their brilliant, bright yellow display.  Forsythias are one of the shrubs that should be pruned soon after they are finished blooming.  These shrubs bloom on one-year-old wood, and the flower buds are produced the fall before the plant flowers.  Other spring flowering trees and shrubs that should be pruned after flowering include azaleas, crabapple, dogwood, doublefile viburnum, flowering quince, hawthorn, lilacs, Redbud, shrub roses, and spring blooming spireas.

         Correct pruning of forsythias and other deciduous shrubs involves three basic types of pruning: thinning out, heading back, and rejuvenation pruning.  Thinning out or renewal pruning involves the removal of old canes or shoots back to the ground.  Usually, remove no more than one-third of the shoots at any one time.  Leave the youngest and most actively growing shoots.  Heading back enables one to control or direct the growth or form of a plant but not destroying its natural form.  Cut shoots back to a lower branch or cut back to a strong bud.  Make cuts about ¼ inch above the bud.  Rejuvenation pruning involves the complete cutting back of the top of the plant to the ground.  Many new shoot will grow up from the crown of the plant.  Thin these new shoots so only the strongest are allowed to grow.

         Finally, deciduous flowering shrubs should not be pruned by clipping with hedge shears.  The beauty of these plants is in their form and flowers.  If the plant is continually sheared, the flowers will only be on the outer surface and the total landscape display will suffer.  Prune the shrub so it keeps its natural form and this will result in those bright brilliant displays that we all enjoy.

 For more information on pruning shrubs visit our website at or contact the Grant County Extension Service at 870-942-2231.  

Brad McGinley is a County Extension Agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, located in Grant County. You may reach him at 870-942-2231 or 202 West Pine St., Sheridan, AR 72150, or by email at  Follow him on Facebook at

By Brad McGinley 

County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division f Agriculture

Media Contact: Brad McGinley
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
202 West Pine Street, Sheridan AR, 72150
(870) 942-2231

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