London (change)

What to prune in winter

Work in the garden slows down during the colder months, but it needn't come to a complete standstill. There are plenty of plants that benefit from winter pruning, including summer-blooming clematis and climbing roses. Find out more, below, and pick up tips on the correct pruning tools and techniques.


Deciduous varieties that bloom in late summer, such as:

· C. texensis and varieties
· C. viticella and varieties
· Large-flowered Jackmanii group

Key tool:

How to do it: cut back to about 1m high to remove long, old growth and encourage strong flowering shoots. Texensis and viticella hybrids can be cut back to ground level before new growth emerges. You could also use hand shears. 


While ramblers are left until summer, the following must be pruned in winter:

· Climbing roses
· Floribundas
· Hybrid teas
· Species roses

Key tool:

How to do it: hard prune all stems of large-flowered types to promote flowering shoots. Roses grown for hips should have a few of the oldest stems removed in late winter. You could also use loppers for cutting out thick, old branches.

Overgrown shrubs

Deciduous shrubs that often outgrow their welcome should be pruned in winter, including:

· Cotinus
· Berberis
· Flowering currants
· Magnolias

Key tool:
pruning saw

How to do it: remove the oldest, least productive main branches, plus any that are badly placed. Don't cut out more than one-third of the total plant in one year - rejuvenate it gradually over three to four years. You could also use loppers. 

Plants that 'bleed'

Woody, deciduous plants that ooze sapunless pruned when dormant ought to be pruned in winter, including:

· Acers
· Birches
· Figs
· Grapevines

Key tool:secateurs

How to do it:prune during mid-winter while the plant is deeply dormant. This should ensure that the cut stems don't bleed sap, which can weaken the plant. You could also use loppers or a pruning saw for large branches. 

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: What to prune in winter
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

susie spragg 06/02/2014 at 16:28

I have a huge overgrown choisya and want to reduce the overall spread. How and when should I go about it?

Fairygirl 06/02/2014 at 16:37

Usually done in spring susie to avoid risk of frost damage. I assume it's the standard green ternata? If there's  a lot to come off it you might prefer to do it in a couple of stages rather than hacking it right back in one go. If you want to have the flowers this year, you could wait till after it's finished,  take a bit off this year and the rest next spring.  A bit of feed afterwards and it should be fine. 

susie spragg 06/02/2014 at 16:39

Thanks for a speedy reply.  When is spring?!   We are near the Somerset Levels and water is in abundance, if not with feed!

Fairygirl 06/02/2014 at 16:47

My sympathies susie.  

I'm in west Scotland and we're used  to high rainfall, but it's really taking the 'you know what' this year isn't it? We've been wetter than normal here, but we've got off lightly compared to a lot of areas. Here's hoping someone turns the tap off eventually.

Spring's coming soon - honest guv! 

philippa smith2 06/02/2014 at 16:47

I'd agree with Fairy Girl.

I had exactly the same problem with my Choisya............It had been shallow planted (and presumably never pruned ) : the winds just kept rocking itI and the roots became exposed.  I've pruned over a couple of years and now although a smaller shrub, it flowers well and seems a lot happier .  I also managed to get a good few cuttings from it in the process

See more comments...