Guide to Pruning Ornamental Shrubs


Pruning shrubs at the right time can produce growth that has improved foliage, flowers more freely, or has more colourful stems. Regular removal of dead wood and congested growth also helps to keep shrubs healthy and free from disease. Whilst some shrubs may need regular pruning, others may be left alone, apart from the removal of dead and diseased wood, unless they outgrow their allotted space.

The following table offers pruning and trimming advice for a wide variety of ornamental shrubs:

Plant Pruning Advice
(Convolvulus spp.)
Cut back to one-third every year in late summer.
This will create a bushy appearance and encourage new flower and foliage growth.
Bottle brush
(Callistemon spp.)
Periodically thin out old branches and shoots at the base of the plant.
(Camellia spp.)
Deadhead blooms to increase growth for the following year.
Remove straggly growth in mid-late spring after flowering.
Cut back straggly growth in early spring.
(Cornus spp.)
Prune stems right back to the base before growth starts in spring.
This will stimulate the growth of brightly coloured winter stems.
(Fuchsia magellanica)
In spring, cut back to almost ground level.
This will encourage new shoots to replace those that died back during winter.
(Erica spp.)
Prune in spring before growth starts.
Remove dead flowerheads after flowering to encourage new growth.
(Hibiscus syriacus)
In early spring, cut back any frost-damaged shoots.
Restrict size by removing old branches.
Lacecap hydrangea
(Hydrangea macrophylla)
Remove twiggy growth and old flowerheads in early spring.
Remove stems that are more than 3 years old.
Cut back the previous years stems to 15-30 cm (6-12 in) from the base.
(Aucuba japonica)
Cut back in spring only if its size needs to be restricted.
(Lavandula spp.)
Cut back shoots in early spring by 2.5 cm (1 in) or more of the previous year's growth.
After flowering has finished in late summer or early autumn, cut away all dry stalks.
After removing the stalks, lightly clip the shrub to maintain a neat appearance.
(Acacia dealbata)
Cut back dead wood in the spring.
Restrict shrub size by cutting back to one-third after flowering.
(Rhododendron spp.)
Requires deadheading annually.
May be lightly trimmed when young to create a pleasing shape.
Does not require pruning until it is fully grown - after 10 to 15 years.
Cut out weak and crossing branches and any dead or damaged wood.
Restrict size of mature plants by removing one or two of the most extensive shoots to side branches.
Scots heather
(Calluna vulgaris)
Prune regularly, once a year in early spring.
Avoid creating bare patches - do not cut into old wood.
Shrubby veronica
(Hebe spp.)
Do not prune after flowering; the uncut stems provide the plant with some protection over the winter.
Remove damaged shoots in spring when new growth starts to appear.
If necessary, the plant may be cut back for shape a month after its initial pruning.