Pruning tips for autumn

Why prune shrubs?

Shrubs create the structure in a garden so it’s important to keep them in good condition with regular pruning. This will improve a plant’s shape and encourage flowers and fruits.

What to do

How and where to cut

  • Pruning cuts are essentially wounds to the plant where disease could enter so use sharp, clean tools and make clean cuts without leaving snags. Cut close to buds, but not into them, and always above.

Pruning young shrubs

  • Early pruning helps establish a shapely shrub with vigorous, balanced growth.
  • Most evergreen shrubs do not need thinning or formative pruning. However all shrubs benefit from shortening any excessively long shoots and cutting out weak or damaged growth.
  • Deciduous shrubs are more likely to need pruning into shape; this is known as formative pruning. Young shrubs often grow lots of shoots so you will have to thin them early on.
  • Correct lopsided growth by lightly pruning longer shoots and hard pruning weak stems.

Rejuvenating old shrubs

  • Shrubs such as forsythia and buddleja can soon accumulate masses of old, dead wood in the centre if they are not pruned regularly.
  • The best way to rejuvenate these plants is to cut them back during the dormant season.
  • First cut out dead, diseased and crossing stems, and then thin the number of remaining stems by half.
  • Shrubs that respond to severe pruning, such as ribes and philadelphus, may be cut almost to ground level to re-establish a framework of new shoots. If the shrub is old and it’s hard to predict a successful revival, take cuttings just in case.