When to Prune Your Trees, Shrubs & Grasses

Proper Pruning


Most trees can be pruned in December, January, or February. This is when they are dormant and the sap is not flowing. The few exceptions are those that bleed sap profusely if pruned after the sap starts to rise in February. These free bleeders must be pruned in January and include birch, maple, elm, willow, and walnut. Live Oak and Southern Magnolia don’t go dormant and pruning should be done in mid-March. Shade trees that can be winter pruned include fruit and pecan trees, bramble, berries, privet, honeysuckle, and grape vines.

Evergreen Shrubs

Hollies, euonymus, boxwood, and other broadleaf evergreens, as well as needled evergreens may be pruned anytime. However, if they are to be severely pruned, they will look better if pruned just before new growth starts in the spring, generally from March 1st to the 15th. Wait to prune established bush roses until mid-March. Pruning earlier gives a greater chance of freeze damage as the newly pruned bushes are sometimes hurt by the cold. Pruning can be done as late as the second week of April. Most climbing roses bloom on new growth, but they’ll bloom more if pruning is done after their first flush of blooms.

Flowering Shrubs

Spring flowering shrubs that bloom on last year’s growth should be pruned right after their blooming period. Pruning before blooming removes their buds. These include forsythia, quince, azaleas, mockorange, spiraeas, weigela, lilacs, snowball, wisteria, spring blooming hydrangeas and some climbing roses.

Summer flowering shrubs such as althea, buddleia, desert willow, and vitex, should be pruned just before new growth starts in the spring, generally from March 1st to early April.


More and more crapemyrtles are being pruned improperly. Although the common practice of “topping” crapemyrtles does not kill the tree, it can result in trees declining in health after years of improper pruning.

Crape Myrtles should be pruned in late March through early April. When pruning a crapemyrtle, plants should be thinned and not topped. Remove branches that rub against each other. Prune out branches that cross each other or are in competition with each other. Remove branches that do not contribute to the overall growth direction or shape that you desire for the tree. Also, eliminate suckers at the base of the tree and watersprouts (vigorous upright growth) in the tree canopy.

If a crapemyrtle becomes too large for a certain location, either it was planted in the wrong spot in the landscape or the wrong variety was selected. In addition to flower color, select crapemyrtles for size at maturity.

Ornamental Grasses

Prune ornamental grasses, such as “Maiden” or “Zebra” grass, back to the ground to remove dead growth. Prune any dead out of hardy grasses, such as “Monkey” (also called “Liriope”). Pruning should be done on all grasses in early to mid-March.


It is not difficult to do, but you should prune plants according to their habits. Plants can be ruined by improper pruning. It’s better not to prune at all than to do it wrong. Please, find out how to prune before proceeding. Pruning information is available at TLC Garden Centers. Please, find out how to prune before proceeding.

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