Lavender in bloom

What to prune in spring

Find out which plants need pruning in spring and how to go about it.

Spring can be the busiest time of year for gardeners. Once day length and temperatures increase, our plants surge into growth. In addition to soil preparation, seed sowing and planting, there’s also plenty of pruning to be done.

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Many plants should be pruned in spring, including lavenderbuddleia and ornamental grasses. Pruning in spring makes way for more growth and helps to encourage more flowers, foliage and colourful stems on a wide range of plants.

Some spring-flowering shrubs flower on old branches and if left unpruned will turn into a jumbled mess, with new growth made only at the top of the shrub. Unlike buddleias and fuchsias, which flower on the same year’s growth and can be pruned almost to ground level, shrubs such as forsythia need careful treatment.

Spring pruning also means you can ensure your shrub has a nice shape, while giving you the opportunity to cut out dead, diseased or dying stems. After pruning, mulch plants with a generous layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure, to give them a boost.

It’s worth getting kitted out with some good-quality pruning tools. Secateurs, loppers and a folding pruning saw will enable you to tackle a wide variety of jobs.

More on pruning:

Find out which plants should be pruned in spring, below.


Tender shrubs

What to prune in spring - rosemary
What to prune in spring – rosemary

Mediterranean shrubs such as lavender can be pruned in early autumn when temperatures are still mild, or in spring, after the harsh conditions of winter. If you live in a northern or eastern area it’s best to prune in spring as the old stems and flowers help protect new shoots from frost in winter. Other tender shrubs to prune in spring include cistus and rosemary.


Summer-flowering shrubs

What to prune in spring - fuchsia
What to prune in spring – fuchsia

Shrubs that bloomed in the summer such as fuchsia and buddleja should be cut back hard in spring to encourage a burst of new growth from the base of the plant, and plenty of flowers for the new season.

How to prune buddleja


Ornamental grasses

What to prune in spring - ornamental grasses
What to prune in spring – ornamental grasses

Miscanthus and other deciduous grasses that have stood over winter can be cut back hard from March. Remove all the brown growth, leaving any new green stems behind.

How to prune ornamental grasses


Plants grown for colourful winter stems

What to prune in spring - dogwood
What to prune in spring – dogwood

Encourage the growth of colourful winter stems by cutting plants such as dogwoods and willow back hard in early spring. Do the same with plants grown for their foliage, such as cotinus. Watch our video guide on pruning and propagating dogwoods.


Spring-flowering shrubs

What to prune in spring - weigela
What to prune in spring – weigela

Shrubs that flower on the previous season’s growth, such as weigela and forsythia, benefit from being cut back immediately after flowering to keep them in check.


Herbaceous perennials

What to prune in spring - herbaceous perennials
What to prune in spring – herbaceous perennials
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Any herbaceous plants you didn’t cut back in autumn, including plants with decorative winter seedheads or stems, can be cut back in spring. These include sea hollies; sedums and thistles. Use secateurs to tidy them up, removing seedheads, stems and brown leaves. Pop them on an open compost heap, rather than a closed one, incase insects are still using them.