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When to Prune Common UK Shrubs?

Pruning shrubs is done not only to maintain them at the right size and height. Apart from shaping them here and there, pruning your shrubs at the right time can also guarantee they will grow healthy and strong and will be prepared for the coming season. If you are not sure when the best time is to prune shrubs in the UK or whether to prune them at all, below we will take a look at the most common UK shrubs.

Pruning of deciduous shrubs

Deciduous shrubs and plants, in general, are those that lose their leaves annually, often, at the end of the summer season or at certain temperatures outside. In doing so, they can keep all their food reserves in their roots and make sure they survive the season.

Pruning deciduous shrubs is best done in spring or winter, as this can aid the process of food preservation. Doing so in the summer period is not recommended, as it usually leaves the shrub without the reserves kept in their leaves.

Pruning shrubs in spring

Black Knight bush (Buddleja davidii)
Black Knight bush (Buddleja davidii)
Growing up to 3m in height, the best time to prune Buddleja is in early spring, so the plant has more than enough time to recover and grow its deep purple scented flowers. With pruning down to only a few buds from last year’s growth, you can also remove any thin or dead growth to invigorate the shrub.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Also known as Blue Bird (Oiseau Bleu), this flowering hedge shrub blooms from early summer to late autumn. With its trumped-shaped blue, almost violet flowers, this plant enjoys the full sun and the best time to prune hibiscus is in early spring. If you have missed your chance, you can also cut it back quite substantially in late winter, which may promote even bigger blooms. Regardless of the season, always make sure to keep it tidy and remove any dead or damaged parts.
Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis)
Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis)
This shrub stays medium in size and flowers with long stalked violet-purple single flowers. It is best to be refreshed by removing almost all of last year’s growth, including all the dead or weak twigs. The best time to prune fuchsia is early to mid-spring, so it can grow healthy throughout the summer and produce flowers.
Grandiflora (Hydrangea paniculata)
Grandiflora (Hydrangea paniculata)
Also known as the hardy white-flowered hydrangea, the plant should be shaped and cut back here and there to control its shape and the direction in which the bush grows. The best time to prune Grandiflora is in early spring or alternatively – late winter. It flowers in little, pretty white flowers towards the end of summer. Depending on your preferences, it can be shaped as a low bush or even a short tree.

Pruning shrubs in summer

Double-flowered Japanese rose (Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’)
Double-flowered Japanese rose (Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’)
The Peniflora will grow into as large a bush as you let it. The bright green pointy leaves combined with its small yellow flowers can bring life to even the darkest corners of your garden. The best time to prune it would be after it flowers. Cut back all dead and damaged shoots and shape the shrub the way you like. To avoid overcrowding, you can also cut back a few of the stems down to the soil to leave space for the rest to grow freely.
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ (Mock Orange)
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ (Mock Orange)
Blooming in late summer, it is best to prune Belle Etoile after flowering. This deciduous bush grows medium in size and has distinct star-shaped white flowers with an orange inside. Trim down to the ground the dead, dried and weak shoots. Remove some of the stems if the bush is getting too thick.
Pulborough Scarlet (Ribes sanguineum)
Pulborough Scarlet (Ribes sanguineum)
Also known as flowering currant, it is best to prune Pulborough Scarlet after flowering. Once in bloom, this shrub looks like all flowers and no leaves. The thin branches can grow up quite a bit and from them, in small clusters show up the flowers. They are often clustered together, like grape vines. Thin out the bush by cutting down the dead and weak stems to the ground.
Weigela (Florida Variegata)
Weigela (Florida Variegata)
Weigela is usually a small and airy deciduous bush with dark green leaves and light pink flowers. When left to grow, it can go up to 10 feet in height with a thick foliage. The best time to prune Florida Variegata is immediately after it flowers, but it can also benefit from rejuvenating pruning, down to the ground every now and then. Keep the shrub tidy and remove any broken, old or weak shoots to strengthen the rest of the plant.

When to prune evergreen shrubs

Evergreen shrubs retain their green color throughout the year. If they are not the flowering type, it may be difficult to understand when the best time is to prune evergreen shrubs. Most of them can be pruned back in mid spring before their growing season. It is important to do so after the winter frosts, as otherwise you risk damaging or losing the plant. Pruning in spring gives the evergreens the opportunity to heal from their pruning scars and grow in the shape and form you want them to. If your evergreens are flowering or are just about to during that time, it is best to postpone the pruning to afterwards. After your evergreen has flowered, it is time to prune it back. Some shrubs require a harder prune, and some can be left with just a touch here and there.

Examples of early flowering evergreens are Rhododendron and Camellia. They are usually best left to their own devices and just resort to the occasional removal of dead shoots. You can also shape them to your liking. Early flowering shrubs generally do not need heavy pruning at all, and any cutting should be done simply to keep their form.  Other evergreens that should be lightly pruned only after flowering are Azalea, Laurel, Pieris, Daphne, Choisya, Buxus, Berberis and the Ceanothus.

 A harder prune can be tolerated by the Mahonia aquifolium, Viburnum and Hypericum calycinum, in order to stimulate a better flowering. Prune them in spring and shape them as needed throughout the year.

If your evergreens bloom in late summer or autumn, they also will need a very light prune. Remove the odd shoots to maintain the shape whenever needed and lightly prune them in mid to late spring.  Such shrubs are Rosmarinus, Hebe, Fatsia, Eucryphia and Eschallonia.

Evergreen shrubs such as Lavandula, Thymus, Ulex, Ruta, Santolina, Erica, Helianthemum, Hyssopus, Calluna and Bouvardia flower in spring and early summer. Remove shoots and prune back only last year’s growth. The deciduous shrubs Potentilla fruticosa and Ceratostigma willmottianum also belong to this group. 

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