Some shrubs simply require a “do-over”. They have gotten too large and too crowded with their own branching. When this happens, renewal pruning, also known as rejuvenation pruning, may be just the ticket to a more beautiful and healthy plant.

Renewal pruning  involves drastically cutting back a shrub so it can essentially start over. This is typically done every three to five years and in the early spring, right before buds begin to open up. This kind of pruning should only be done on healthy plants. Unhealthy plants might not survive. The resulting plant will flush out and look more open and healthy.


Plants That Respond Well To Renewal Pruning

Hydrangeas Forsythia
Viburnums Honeysuckle
Lilac Barberry
Flowering Quince Spireas
Weigelia Potentilla
Shrub Dogwoods Burning Bush


It should be noted that spring blooming plants with not bloom in the year that renewal pruning is done as the flower buds will have been cut off. Don’t worry, they will return the following year.

Steps For Renewal Pruning

  1. Remove approximately 1/3 of the existing branches. Start with any branches that are dead followed by the oldest branches. Cut them back all the way to the ground or to the main stem they are growing from.
  2. Cut back remaining branches to the desired height. This may be anywhere between 6” and 24” depending on your long-term goals for the garden. There is no right or wrong answer on this.


Tips For Renewal Pruning

  • Sharp tools are necessary for making clean cuts that will heal properly and quickly. The normal tools that are needed include hand pruners, lopping shears and a pruning saw.
  • Make final cuts about ¼ of an inch above a bud that is facing outward from the center of the plant. The new growth will flush out in this direction making for a more open shrub with good air flow. Good air flow is important for preventing diseases that could harm the plant. It will also help prevent crossing branches that can rub together causing damage.
  • Pruning cuts should be done at an angle, not flat across. This will allow water to run off the cut instead of soaking in, potentially causing rot.
  • Thoroughly remove all cuttings and debris. Any that is left on the ground could become a place for pests to hide and lay eggs.  


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