woman pruning shrubs, how to prune shrubsPruning can be intimidating, especially for beginners. Many people are afraid of making a mistake that hurts the plant. Pruning is like cutting hair. And like hair, it will grow back even if you cut it to the hairline trying to get an even cut. In other words, it WILL be ok. Learning how to prune shrubs and hedges will help you overcome your fears. 

What is Pruning?

Pruning removes dead or overgrown branches or stems to promote healthy plant growth. Most plants benefit greatly from different methods of pruning and maintenance.  

How to Prune Shrubs

Proper trimming techniques will keep your shrubs and hedges healthy and line up your landscaping. There are three pruning techniques for deciduous shrubs: thinning, gradual renewal, and rejuvenation pruning. Here’s what you need to know. 


If you want to open up the plant, consider thinning it out. Thinning means cutting a branch or twig at its point of origin from either the parent stem or ground level. The benefit of this pruning is providing room for side branches to grow without stimulating excessive new growth. Thinning also helps to maintain a specific height and width for many years. 

Pro Tip: When thinning, we recommend using a pair of pruning shears to remove the oldest and tallest stems. 

Gradual Renewal

Gradual renewal pruning (aka renewal pruning) allows you to remove old branches over time. While this method is slower than other pruning techniques, a benefit is that shrubs rejuvenated over time look better in the landscape as they regrow.

Pro Tip: Cut the tallest and oldest branches at ground level (or slightly above) annually. You may have to do some thinning to shorten long branches or to maintain its symmetrical shape. 


Rejuvenation (aka hard pruning) is a radical form that involves cutting the shrub off to a height of 6-12 inches. You can hard prune a shrub every three to four years. This pruning may be beneficial to rejuvenate an overgrown shrub that begins to look gangly, dies in the interior, and/or has stopped producing flowers. 

Pro Tip: Only use this pruning method with fast-growing, multi-stemmed shrubs. It’s best to wait until early spring before new growth begins.  

Pruning encourages healthy growth and flowering when done correctly. Now that you feel confident, you can test out your new skills.

Need Help?

Knowing exactly when and how to prune shrubs in your yard can be challenging, especially if you don’t have the time or the right equipment. If you prefer to leave the pruning to an expert, contact Nichols Reliable Lawn Care & More. With our help, you can rest assured your landscaping is in good hands. 

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