Don’t wait to prune early-blooming shrubs

lilacs in Amherst NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The time to prune shrubs that bloom before the middle of June is right after they flower, according to an article in the newest edition of WNY Gardening Matters, published by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County.

If you wait too long and prune them after they have set next year’s buds, you will lose the flower production next year.

Early-blooming shrubs that you shouldn’t wait to prune include lilac, deutzia, kerria, Philadelphus, forsythia, viburnum, St. John’s wort, and  dogwood trees.

In another article in this edition, you’ll read about the European cherry fruit fly, which can infest sweet cherry, tart cherry, all saints cherry, mahaleb cherry and black cherry as well as the fruit of honeysuckles, including invasive honeysuckles.

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10 Comments on “Don’t wait to prune early-blooming shrubs

  1. Red and yellow twig dogwoods have almost imperceptible flowers. Why should they be pruned in June? It seems to me that it is better to prune them in late winter, when you can see the structure of the plants without leaves and can cut some of the oldest canes, as is suggested to keep them looking good.

  2. Actually many sources agree with you! It is suggested that red and/or yellow stem dogwoods be pruned when dormant. The article really pertains to dogwood trees.

    Also if you are refurbishing a shrub by cutting about a third down to the base it really won’t matter …removed stems can’t flower !

    If you are pruning the spent blossoms of a shrub like lilac it is easy to cut into next year’s buds if you prune too late in the season.

  3. When should you prune a rose of Sharon? Mine has buds now but it really needs pruning. It is getting to big. Thanks

  4. Rose of Sharon can be pruned in late fall, winter, or early spring as they flower on new wood.

  5. I have an amazing re-blooming lilac and I never know when to prune it! It’s first heavy burst is in the spring but it will continue right through hard frost. I do trim dead flower stalks at the tips but it’s getting out of control! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  6. I have an amazing re-blooming lilac and I never know when to prune it! It’s first heavy burst is in the spring but it will continue right through hard frost. I do trim dead flower stalks at the tips but it’s getting out of control! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  7. How lucky you are to have an “out of control” lilac! You can remove no more than a third of the stems each year….cut them right down to the ground. These lilacs bloom on new wood so you can still get flowers on the untrimmed stems …..just cut off the spent flowers right after they finish blooming.

  8. Thanks! I”ll prune some of the old heavy branches. I only wish it was easier to propagate but that’s another issue.

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