Many garden plants benefit from pruning, but it’s important to prune at the right time of year, in the right way. Many plants should be pruned in the winter months, while they’re dormant. Pruning in winter encourages flowers and fruit, can encourage a good shape, promotes strong growth and helps to stop disease taking hold.
Some plants should be pruned in spring, while others are best left until summer or autumn.
There are plenty of plants that benefit from winter pruning, including summer-blooming clematis and roses. Find out more, below.
Prune grapevines in December or January, by cutting back to a main ‘rod’, or arm, that is trained out vertically along support wires. Don’t prune outside the deeply dormant season, otherwise the wounds will bleed sap.
Cut all the canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries down to within 5cm of the ground every year in February. This encourages them to send up fresh new stems that will bear fruit in the coming autumn. Summer-fruting raspberries should be cut down after they’ve cropped, in late summer.
Group 3 clematis
Prune Group 3 clematis in February by cutting the plant down to 10cm above the ground. Read our guide to winter-pruning clematis. Most other groups of clematis only need a light tidy up after flowering. Hard pruning in February is optional for Viticella Group varieties. Find out more about clematis groups.
Prune fig trees in December or January when deeply dormant, otherwise the wounds will bleed sap. With fan-trained plants, prune so lots of evenly spaced, straight stems radiate out from a short trunk, and remove any that grow out from the wall. Read our guide to pruning a fig tree.
These vigorous climbers need pruning twice a year, in December and again in summer, to keep them in check and promote flowering. In winter, prune all sideshoots back to three or four buds. Then after summer flowering, cut back all whippy shoots to 30cm. Find out more about pruning wisteria in winter.
Fruit bushes, including blueberries and blackcurrants, plus gooseberries and redcurrants can be pruned in winter. As a general rule, remove some old wood each year, creating a goblet shape and leaving healthy young branches that will produce large crops in years to come.
Many types of rose can be pruned in winter, including floribundas, hybrid teas, shrub roses and climbing roses. Rambling roses are pruned in late summer, but can be renovated in winter. As a general rule, cut back thin, weak stems the most, and thick, vigorous stems the least. Aim to leave plants anything from 15cm to 45cm tall, depending on the original size of the plant and your preference.
Apple and pear trees
These should be pruned from November to mid-March to encourage fruiting. Aim to create a wine-glass shape, with evenly spaced branches rising up from the trunk in a circle around a hollow centre. Cut off any water shoots at their very base and remove any dead, diseased or crossing branches. Read our practical guide to pruning apple and pear trees.
Deciduous ornamental trees
From November to March, remove smaller branches arising from the trunk to create a clean, bare stem at least 90-120cm tall. Remove any branches that impede access or block mowing, but cut sensitively, thinning out rather than chopping back the whole canopy. Read our guide to winter-pruning trees and shrubs.
Deciduous shrubs that often outgrow their welcome should be pruned in winter, including cotinus, berberis, flowering currants and magnolias. Read our guide to winter-pruning trees and shrubs.