How to prune your plants

Do it:

Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov

Takes just:

30 minutes

Pruning and cutting back is important if your plants are to give their best display or crop, and to prevent them outgrowing their space. Most woody ornamental plants are best pruned in the dormant season or, if they are spring flowering, as soon as the flowers begin to fade. Most herbaceous plants can be cut back after flowering or at the end of the growing season.

You will need

  • Established plant
  • Secateurs
  • Long-handled loppers
  • Pruning saw


Where buds are visible, prune just above them to prevent leaving a long 'snag' of stem which could encourage die-back. Allow 3mm - 4mm so as not to damage the bud itself.

Where plants have alternately positioned buds on their stems, make the cut at a slight angle in the direction in which the bud is pointing.

If the plant has pairs of buds opposite each other, make the cut straight if you want both buds to grow. Alternatively cut at an angle to remove one of the pair where a single stem is required.

Cut out any old or dead wood at the base of the plant to encourage strong new shoots from the base. You may need to use long-handled loppers for more leverage if the wood is thick and tough.

To rejuvenate old shrubs or coppice shrubs that are grown for the colour of their stems, hard prune all the stems down to 10cm - 15cm above their base during the dormant season. Don't worry if there are no buds visible.

Where stems are growing close together or crossing, cut out one to prevent them from rubbing together which may damage the bark and cause die-back or disease.

Cut back flowered stems of herbaceous plants down to ground level, leaving the clump of leaves at the base. This stops the plants wasting their energy in forming seed.


Remove thick stems and branches using a pruning saw. For large branches, leave 1cm - 2cm where it joins the main stem, so that the tree or shrub can heal the wound.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

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How to summer-prune wisteria

How to prune and propagate dogwoods

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