If you’re fairly new to gardening, pruning can be a little daunting. However, I promise it will all pay off when your plants provide you with an even better show than last year. And by ‘show’, I don’t mean a trip to see the Phantom of the Opera – by pruning your plants, you’ll give them a chance to grow bigger and more profuse flowers, foliage and fruits than last year, so it’s well worth it!
However, all plants have a different requirement when it comes to pruning time, and this is where it can get tricky. For example, if a plant that flowers on old wood (i.e. certain hydrangeas) is pruned just before flowering, you’ll likely remove the buds and it won’t flower. Likewise, if cherry trees are pruned in winter, they can actually be more susceptible to disease.
If you’re unsure about when you should prune a plant, look up its pruning requirements before getting shear-happy! I’ve also created a year-round guide for pruning common plants, shrubs and trees, which you can find below.
And when it comes to choosing your secateurs, here’s a pair that will help you complete a range of pruning jobs in your garden – and it even comes as part of a set with two additional gardening tools.
The best shears for all your pruning jobs
Whatever the job at hand in the garden, these handy tools from SFIXX have you covered. With a saw, secateurs and ratchet cutter included in this set, you have everything you need to thin shrubs, prune trees and cut through branches.
These comfortable and well balanced secateurs make pruning jobs a breeze. The strong blade can cut through thicker branches, and the non-slip handle makes this even easier.
This saw features a 22.5cm blade and a sturdy handle for operating with a push-pull motion to saw through live and dry branches.
Need to cut cables? This requires an even stronger tool! These ratchet cutters will make light work of this job, holding the cable tight while making a rapid, straight cut in one action.
Your pruning calendar
As if you need a reason to use that fantastic gardening tool set, here’s a calendar with one plant to prune for every month of the year!
January – Wisteria
Wisteria is pruned twice a year, once in July/August, and the second time in January/February. When winter pruning wisteria, cut back new growth to two or three buds to allow the flowers to take centre stage over the foliage in late spring!
February – Apple trees
Pruning of apple trees should take place in winter while the tree is dormant. Prune to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood, as trees that aren’t pruned will be more branch than fruit!
March – Hydrangeas
Personally, I love the look of faded flower heads on hydrangeas during winter, so it’s a good thing that you don’t have to remove them until later in the season! Hydrangeas like macrophylla can be cut back to the newest buds, while paniculata and arborescens can be pruned harder. With climbing hydrangeas, wait until it has finished flowering in summer to prune.
April – Cornus
This fiery shrub can be pruned up to mid-April, when the new growth is beginning to develop. The shrub will then regrow and maintain its vibrant colour.
May – Winter flowering clematis
While it might seem a scary thing to do, you can cut winter flowering clematis to around 30-50cm from the base to encourage new growth. This kind of hard renovation shouldn’t take place again for another few years, although growth can be quite rapid following its pruning after the temperatures begin to rise again.
June – Phlox
Flowering from late spring to early summer, deadhead phlox after half the blooms are spent, and you’ll be rewarded with new mid-season growth amongst new flowers.Cut down to ground level in autumn and winter, before spring growth emerges.
July – Peonies
Deadhead and cut back peonies after flowering, or wait until autumn and cut back to ground level, to encourage healthier growth for next year and avoid peony wilt.
August – Gooseberries
Those thorns might seem intimidating, but be sure to don some good gardening gloves and give this soft fruiting bush a prune in late summer for better fruits next year. For established plants, cut back new side shoots to around five leaves, then, in early winter, prune those same shoots to two or three leaves.
September – Shrub roses
Deadhead spent flowers to prevent rot. Then, in late winter, prune away crossing stems, as well as dead or damaged stems, to create a neater shrub rose.
October – Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle vines can be lightly pruned at any time of year, but if your plant is particularly overgrown, wait until after the first frost to do a major pruning job.
November – Autumn fruiting raspberries
Increase the length of your fruiting time next year by double cropping: half pruning the canes that fruited this year. These will fruit earlier, providing delicious raspberries from summer onwards.
December – Acers
Prune acers when they are dormant in winter to avoid releasing sap, which can damage the tree. Acers should only be pruned lightly to control shape and size.
Got a pruning question? Leave it in the comments below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.