Summer 2021

The science of preserving nature since 1964

Ornamental Pruning

Ornamental trees and shrubs are primarily planted for aesthetic reasons. They provide an interesting focal point to a landscape and can sometimes even define the property. They are often planted in highly visible areas such as at the front of a house or building for curb appeal, or near a pool or patio to add to the overall look and beauty of the location. To keep them looking their best in bloom, ornamental trees and shrubs require expert and specially timed pruning.


Pruning of ornamental trees is usually focused on trying to maintain the tree’s size and aesthetic shape. For flowering trees, removing the current year’s old, faded flowers and fruit will promote more flower buds to grow the following season. Here are some other points to consider:


  • There are a few problems you should always look to correct during pruning (see figure A below). Narrow, v-shaped crotches are structurally weak and should be removed while they are still small. Likewise, trees are always strongest with one main stem, so remove any competing terminals. Eliminate crossing or rubbing branches, choosing the healthiest, best-placed branch to remain in that area. Also, remove branches that are broken, damaged or diseased. Finally, prune to improve the look of your tree or shrub. Think about shape as well as mass—thinning out branches often improves appearance.
  • When pruning trees, it’s usually best to cut branches back to a main stem. Woody plants have natural mechanisms that help them heal at main junctures. It’s important not to sever the branch collar (figure B below) as that is where these mechanisms are.
  • To encourage growth in shrubs, prune back small branches or twigs just above a bud at a 45-degree angle.
  • Untended shrubs will require heavy rejuvenation pruning. Prune tree-like shrubs back to a main stem, as described above (figure C). On the other hand, prune cane-shaped shrubs all the way to the ground.
  • Pruning larger trees can be difficult and dangerous; a good rule of thumb is if you’re thinking of pruning a branch that you couldn’t carry comfortably with one hand, call your arborist.

Shrub Pruning Cycle

Timing is crucial to proper pruning — especially for shrubs. Here’s our suggested shrub pruning cycle:


Early Spring

At this time, we prune away dead, broken and diseased branches and any winter damage. We also prune to shape each shrub tailored to its species and bloom cycle. If desired, we can prune perennials as well.

Shrubs (partial list): Crape Myrtle, Butterfly Bush, Daphne, Flowering Quince, Japanese Rose, Viburnum, Repeat Blooming Roses, Clethra, Witch Hazel.















Early Summer

We focus on reducing, thinning, shaping and rejuvenation pruning techniques after the first flush of spring growth and flowering of most common shrubs has passed. This is the most significant pruning cycle of the season. We can also prune perennials.

Shrubs (partial list): Lilac, Forsythia, Rhododendron, Mt. Laurel, Andromeda, Azalea, Deutzia, Climbing and Old Garden Roses.

Crape myrtle

Butterfly Bush

Flowering Quince

Witch Hazel






In late summer, we focus on reducing, and shaping the second flush of growth and removing dead, broken or diseased plant parts. We’ll also prune perennials, if desired.

Shrubs (partial list): Hydrangea, Gardenia, Marigold, Zinnia, Rose of Sharon, Crape Myrtle, Azalea, Angel's Trumpet.



Rose of Sharon



At this time, our focus is on reducing and shaping as required, removing dead, broken or diseased plant parts and restoration and rejuvenation pruning to prepare for winter and spring growth. We’ll perform perennial pruning as directed.

Shrubs: As needed to prepare for winter season.



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