Roses of sharon pruning

Pruning Rose Of Sharon Shrub: Tips On How To Trim A Rose Of Sharon

The rose of Sharon shrub flowers on growth from the current year, allowing optimum opportunities for when to prune rose of Sharon. Pruning rose of Sharon shrub may be done in late fall or winter after leaves drop or in early spring before buds form.

Rose of Sharon pruning done later than early spring may cause the loss of some blooms, but those that are not removed will be larger. Learning how to prune a rose of Sharon and when to prune rose of Sharon is simple once you learn the methods.

Younger shrubs may benefit from a light pruning while older specimens may need more extreme branch removal. When planning to trim a rose of Sharon, stand back and take a look at the overall form. Younger shrubs grow upward and have an erect form, but older specimens may have attractive, drooping branches. To maintain either form when pruning rose of Sharon shrub, remove wood to the first or second node (bump on the limb).

If growth appears untidy and out of hand,

rose of Sharon pruning may need to be further down the stem. Annual rose of Sharon pruning prevents an untidy appearance.

How to Prune a Rose of Sharon

When pruning rose of Sharon shrub, begin by removing any branches that appear dead or damaged from storm or winter damage. Also, remove branches that appear to have gone awry or are growing in the wrong direction. Top, upright growth may be pinched back to encourage the growth of side branches. Oldest and tallest stems can be removed first.

An important step in rose of Sharon pruning is removal of any suckers sprouting from the bottom of the trunk, growing from the roots or spouting in the nearby growing area.

Pruning rose of Sharon shrub will include the removal of older, inner branches that disturb an open and airy appearance. Thin out branches which block sunlight or prevent air circulation through the plant. Remove weak branches further down and only prune back healthy branches to the node which allows the desired appearance. As a rule of thumb, allow 8 to 12 inches between inner branches for the best flowering display.

If your rose of Sharon bush is old and has not been pruned in several years, renewal pruning rose of Sharon shrub offers the opportunity to start over. In late autumn or winter, cut older trunk branches down by two thirds of the tree’s height. Some prune these back even closer to the ground.

This rejuvenation pruning allows a new form to develop in spring when new growth emerges and affords the opportunity to keep up with annual pruning. This type of pruning may result in a loss of blooms the following year, but is well worth the loss for a newly formed shrub.

Whether your pruning chore is only to trim a rose of Sharon or to cut it back severely, you will be rewarded with more vigorous growth and possibly larger flowers the next year.

How to Prune Rose of Sharon

Maintaining Rose of Sharon in your garden or yard is easy, but you should understand the natural environment that best suits the plant. Rose of Sharon is the common name of the Hibiscus syriacus, also known as Althea or Hardy Hibiscus. It is a beautiful deciduous shrub that grows in a wide range of climates. Carefully pruning the flower in its first two years helps ensure a healthy and beautiful plant.

Rose of Sharon Overview

Rose of Sharon grows best in full sun and can tolerate all but the hottest climates. If you live in a very hot climate, consider planting where the flower will receive afternoon shade. Winter temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit are acceptable for growing this flower, although winter mulch will be helpful in cold environments. The climate is most favorable in USDA Hardiness zones five through nine.

Water the plant regularly and keep the soil fairly moist, but keep in mind that overwatering may be harmful. Rose of Sharon will grow to approximately eight to 12 feet tall and six to 10 feet wide with leaves growing out later than those of many other deciduous shrubs. Bloom colors can be red, white, lavender, pink, or light blue, and some plants even have double blooms (double rows of petals that make for a fuller flower).

Tip: If you love the look of the Rose of Sharon, but do not have the space or the time for pruning, consider buying a miniature species such as Hibiscus syriacus, “Minerva,” which reaches only five to eight feet tall.

Prune to Ideal Shape in the First Two Years

During the first two years, prune Rose of Sharon to a shape of your liking. Perform any heavy pruning in early spring, before the plant leafs out. Light pruning throughout the year will help maintain the shape and form of the plant.

Pruning techniques vary with your desired shape. For a fuller rounder bush, make “heading cuts” by shortening the preexisting branches. For a more natural, vase-like shape make “thinning cuts” by removing the entire stem. The Rose of Sharon is naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, though it can be pruned to have one main growth and is sometimes referred to as the Rose of Sharon tree.

Maintain Shape and Form with Light Pruning

Pruning Rose of Sharon in the early springtime encourages blooming while allowing you to remove any portions of the plant damaged by winter temperatures and winds. Cutting the shrub back to two or three buds per branch will encourage larger blossoms. You can give old or overgrown shrubs a new lease on life by pruning one third of the oldest main stems to the ground each spring for three years. After the third year, you will have a more compact and better flowering shrub. Remove dead, diseased, and injured branches at any time of year.

You can safely prune Rose of Sharon back to stubs of about two feet without damaging the plant. However, smaller pruning jobs will help to form a more natural appearance.

Because Rose of Sharon is a large shrub, it grows best when given a good deal of free space. Unless you are willing to prune it heavily each spring, do not plant Rose of Sharon in an area with limited space. Additionally, if you do plant it in a wide open area, it is not absolutely necessary to prune the plant at all.

Other Tips

Rose of Sharon should remain in the ground to overwinter. Do not fertilize the plant prior to the late fall and winter seasons, as a fair amount of seasonal damage is common. However, Rose of Sharon does well over the winter when insulated in a moderate to heavy cover of snow.

Proper Time to Prune Trees and Shrubs

An important aspect of pruning is knowing when to prune plants. Proper timing helps to insure attractive, healthy, productive plants. The proper time to prune trees and shrubs in the yard and garden are indicated below.

Deciduous Shrubs

The proper time to prune deciduous shrubs is determined by the plant’s growth habit, bloom time, and health or condition.

Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, bloom in spring on the growth of the previous season. The plant’s health or condition determines the best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs.

Neglected, overgrown spring-flowering shrubs often require extensive pruning to rejuvenate or renew the plants. The best time to rejuvenate large, overgrown shrubs is late winter or early spring (March or early April). Heavy pruning in late winter or early spring will reduce or eliminate the flower display for 2 or 3 years. However, rejuvenation pruning will restore the health of the shrubs.

The best time to prune healthy, well-maintained spring-flowering shrubs is immediately after flowering. (Healthy, well-maintained shrubs should require only light to moderate pruning.) Pruning immediately after flowering allows gardeners to enjoy the spring flower display and provides adequate time for the shrubs to initiate new flower buds for next season.

Summer-flowering shrubs, such as potentilla and Japanese spirea, bloom in summer on the current year’s growth. Prune summer-flowering shrubs in late winter or early spring. The pruned shrubs will bloom in summer on the current season’s growth.

Some deciduous shrubs don’t produce attractive flowers. These shrubs may possess colorful bark, fruit, or foliage. Prune these shrubs in late winter or early spring before growth begins.

Do not prune deciduous shrubs in late summer. Pruning shrubs in August or early September may encourage a late flush of growth. This new growth may not harden sufficiently before the arrival of cold weather and be susceptible to winter injury.

Evergreen Shrubs

Prune evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and yew, in late March or early April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in mid-summer. Avoid pruning evergreen shrubs in the fall. Fall pruned evergreens are more susceptible to winter injury.

Deciduous Trees

February through March is generally regarded as the best time to prune most deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the individual a clear view of the tree and allows the selection and removal of appropriate branches. Also, the walling-off or compartmentalization of wounds occurs most rapidly just prior to the onset of growth in spring. Oaks are an exception. The winter months – December, January, and February – are the best time to prune oak trees.

Deciduous trees can be pruned at other times of the year with little or no negative consequences. However, if possible, avoid pruning deciduous trees in spring when the trees are leafing out and in fall when the trees are dropping their leaves.

To reduce the risk of an oak wilt infection, do not prune oaks from March through October. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. It can spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles (“picnic bugs”). If an oak tree must be pruned in spring or summer (such as after a storm), apply latex housepaint to the pruning cuts to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

Fruit Trees

Late February to early April is the best time to prune fruit trees in Iowa. Pruning should be completed before the fruit trees begin to break bud (leaf out) in early spring.

Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees, such as pine, spruce, and fir, require little pruning. Dead, broken, and diseased branches can be removed at any time of year. Late winter is the best time to remove unwanted lower branches on evergreen trees.

Spruce and fir trees possess side or lateral buds on their newest (outermost) growth. To promote denser growth, cut shoots back to just above a lateral bud or side branch in early spring.

Growth on pine trees develops from terminal buds. Pines do not produce side or lateral buds. The growth of pines can be slowed by pinching or pruning off one-half to two-thirds of the elongated terminal buds (“candles”) in spring when the candles are approximately 2 to 3 inches long. Do not prune branches back to older growth down the stem as new growth will not develop from these areas.

Late winter or early spring is the best time time to prune most shrubs and trees—but not all! See our list of which trees and shrubs to prune, and get some general pruning tips for the season.

Why Prune in Winter or Early Spring?

In temperate regions, most plants go dormant during the winter. This is the time of year when they’ve halted active growth and have hunkered down for the cold weather. Because of this dormancy, winter and early spring are typically the best times to make any adjustments to the shapes of many trees and shrubs. You want to prune hard at end of winter or very early spring BEFORE any new growth starts. This allows the plant to put its energy towards producing new, healthy growth when the warmer temperatures of spring roll around.

Practically speaking, it’s also a lot easier to see the true shape of deciduous plants in the winter, since their foliage is gone.

Not all trees and shrubs should be pruned in the winter or early spring, however. Generally speaking, shrubs and trees that bloom on new growth should be pruned in the winter and early spring, while those that bloom on old growth should be pruned in late spring or summer (i.e., after their flowers fade). Read on for more details.

General Pruning Tips

  • Prune on a mild, dry day. Not only is this more pleasant for you, the gardener—it also helps to prevent the spreading of waterborne plant diseases or damage from cold temperatures.
  • Never prune too early in the winter, as incisions can dry out if the temperature drops well below freezing.
  • When pruning, first prune out dead and diseased branches, especially those caused by the winter’s snow and ice.
  • Unwanted lower branches on all evergreen shrubs and trees should also be removed in late winter.
  • Remove the overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the crown of the tree.
  • In general, your goal is to keep the branches that develop or maintain the structure of the tree.
  • Cut branches at the node, the point at which one branch or twig attaches to another.

When to Prune Flowering Shrubs

Got flowering shrubs? When to prune a shrub depends mostly on when it blooms and whether it flowers on growth produced in the same or previous years.

  • In winter and early spring, prune shrubs that form their flower buds on “new” wood (i.e., growth that will occur in the coming spring). Examples include: abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, most clematis, our native smooth hydrangeas, panicle hydrangeas, potentilla, roses, rose-of-sharon, shrub dogwoods, Japanese spirea, St. Johnswort, and summersweet.
  • Wait until late spring or early summer (after flowers fade) to prune shrubs that bloom on “old” wood (i.e., growth from the previous year). Examples are: azalea, beautybush, bridalwreath spirea, spring-blooming clematis, cotoneaster, deutzia, enkianthus, flowering almond, forsythia, mophead hydrangeas, lilacs, mock orange, mountain laurel, ninebark, oakleaf hydrangea, pieris, rhododendron, viburnum, Virginia sweetspire, weigela, wisteria, and witch hazel. If you cut them too early, you’ll cut off the buds that would’ve opened this spring! The best time to prune spring-blooming shrubs is right after the spring blooms fade.

When to Prune Trees and Evergreens

  • Prune evergreen shrubs (yew, holly, and boxwoods) and evergreen trees (spruce, fir) in late winter or early spring when they are still dormant and before new growth begins. Pines are pruned in early June to early July.
  • Prune shade trees, such as oak, sweetgum, maple, katsura and hornbeam in late winter or early spring.
  • Wait to prune spring-flowering trees, such as dogwood, redbud, cherry, pear, and magnolia, until after they flower. Read more about this here.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if a tree has dead branches higher up unless you climb it. For this reason, it may be prudent to hire a tree trimmer to prune any dead trees once every 3 years. To prune shorter trees yourself, look into tree pruners with long-reach poles so that you can keep your own feet safely on the ground.

Common Shrubs and Trees to Prune in Late Winter or Early Spring

Abelia Winter to early spring Maintain a graceful arching form by cutting away some of the oldest stems at ground level. Pinch growing shoots in spring if you want bushier growth.
Azalea Late winter or during the growing season Before growth begins for the season, improve the form of the bush by shortening stems that jut out of place. During the growing season, pinch growing shoot tips where you want bushier growth.
Butterfly bush Late winter Cut all stems to the ground.
Chaste tree Late winter or early spring Evergreen species need little pruning beyond cutting out weak, twiggy, dead, or broken branches.
Crape myrtle Late winter Wherever the plant is not totally winter-hardy, cut off winter-killed wood or cut the whole plant to the ground. Little pruning is needed where this plant is cold-hardy.
Hydrangea Mostly late winter For smooth hydrangea, cut all stems to the ground. For bigleaf or oakleaf hydrangea, cut stems with old flowers still attached back to fat flower buds.
Some hydrangea are NOT pruned in late winter. To avoid cutting off blooms, see our guide to pruning hydrangea varieties.
Smoke bush Late winter or early spring, before growth begins Needs little pruning unless you grow it for its purple leaves rather than for its flowers. In this case, prune severely to stimulate vigorous new growth each spring.

Now see how to prune with our pruning pointers!

Got roses? Most are also pruned in late winter or early spring but see our guide on Pruning Roses.


The best time of year to prune a shrub depends on what kind of plant it is. That’s one of the many good reasons to identify the shrubs in your yard. In general, timing your pruning isn’t as complicated as many homeowners fear. Here are some general tips and words of wisdom from the pros:

Winter is usually the best time. If you live in an area with distinct winters, the time when shrubs have lost their leaves and become dormant is an excellent time to prune them. Without the leaves, you can easily see the branching structure of the shrub and decide what to cut. Dormant pruning is usually done in late winter, six to 10 weeks before the average last frost in your area.

You can prune shrubs at any time of year if it’s necessary—for example, to remove broken branches or dead or diseased wood, or to remove growth that is obstructing a walkway. However, when you prune a leafed-out shrub it’s harder to see what you’re doing. Pruning during the growing season also has a greater risk of spreading diseases and may cause unwanted flushes of growth.

Avoid pruning shrubs in winter that will bloom in spring. You’ll be cutting off the flower buds that would provide the spring show. The time to prune a spring-flowering shrub is shortly after it has finished blooming, before it forms next year’s flower buds.

Spring-blooming shrubs, such as forsythia, lilac, and quince in the North, or camellias and azaleas in the South, form their buds in summer, after they bloom. Those buds live through the winter, ready to open in spring. If you prune these plants in winter, you’ll be cutting off flower buds. (The saying is that these shrubs “flower on old wood,” meaning on twigs that grew the previous year.)

Pruning in winter won’t harm the plant, but it will reduce flowering in spring. If a shrub is severely overgrown, you may need to prune it in winter anyway. It won’t bloom that year (or not as much), but it will return to full form the following spring.

Evergreens are not all alike. Prune most evergreen shrubs, such as yews, boxwoods and junipers, in very early spring before their new growth starts, or else in midsummer, when their growth slows in hot weather. Pines are a different matter: The only time you can control their growth is in spring, when new growth appears as “candles” at the ends of branches. You can pinch back one-half to one-third of each “candle.” Don’t cut into the branches, though; pines can’t form new growth from a cut branch.

Wait to shear formal hedges until new growth starts. If you have formal shrubs that you shear with a power hedge trimmer or shears to create a smooth surface, wait until new growth is underway in spring. That will allow the plants to recover from shearing, which is stressful for plants. Shear hedges once or twice more during the season. Always allow an interval of six to eight weeks so sheared plants can recover.

Don’t prune too late in northern regions. In areas with cold winters, avoid pruning after the middle of August. If you prune too late, you may stimulate new growth that would not have time to grow thick, protective bark before the killing frosts of winter.

A landscape professional can help you identify the shrubs in your yard and advise you on how to prune them.

When and how to prune roses

It’s time to get the garden ready for spring, but don’t prune too soon.

Although the calendar says February, it isn’t too early to start thinking about tidying up the garden for the growing season ahead. As I write this, it’s sunny and 68 degrees F. (20 C) here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so I ventured out to get an idea of the damage Old Man Winter has done.

I wasn’t surprised to find dead leaves everywhere. It doesn’t matter how often we rake and turn them into mulch, tons of additional leaves find their way to our property.

I was surprised, though, to see that all my rose cuttings had died. That has never happened before, and it’s perplexing since this winter has been milder for us than the last.

Another unpleasant discovery was that people installing city sewer lines in the neighborhood had trampled an area of the garden. At the moment, it doesn’t appear that the little patch of roses and other perennials will survive.

So after assessing the state of the garden, I rolled up my sleeves, got out my Bionic rose gloves, secateurs, mini rake, trusty Oxo Gel-e Gardening Weeder and iPad, and got to work. (I find an iPad or iPod to be essential gardening equipment since all chores go more quickly when listening to my favorite tunes.)

I bagged the leaves, extracted weeds, and cut back most of my perennials including catmints, lavenders, centranthus and spireas, but I didn’t prune the roses.

Rule of thumb for when to prune

When we get the occasional nice day in winter, people ask if it’s OK to go ahead and prune the roses. I advise waiting, because if another cold spell comes along, canes can be damaged and you’ll just have to do it all over again.

In most areas of the country, a good rule of thumb is to prune when the forsythia blooms. Start by pulling off any diseased leaves that have wintered over on your rose bushes. Dispose of them right away — don’t throw them on the ground or you’ll be inviting even more disease problems.

Then get out your newly sharpened pruning shears and remove dead wood right down to the bud union. To help improve air circulation, remove any canes that crisscross, canes that grow into the center of the bush, and any weak, spindly growth.

Diseased or winter-damaged wood should be pruned to the point where you find light green or white pith. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch above a leaf bud that faces toward the outside of the plant.

Many rose varieties have specific pruning requirements

How severely you prune depends on the type of rose. Unless you plan to exhibit, most experts recommend moderate pruning of hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras — leaving the bushes about 18 to 24 inches high.

Hybrid perpetual roses, shrub roses, and old garden roses just require thinning and shaping, so limit yourself to removing only old canes, dead wood, and spindly growth.

David Austin English roses don’t appreciate drastic haircuts.

Pruning climbing roses can be a bit trickier. Climbers that have only one flowering period should be pruned after they bloom. Take out old, weak, or entangled branches. Repeat-blooming climbers need to be pruned while dormant in the spring. Again, remove any old or unproductive canes, then cut back side shoots to pencil thickness.

Miniatures and minifloras are your easiest task. A recent study showed meticulous pruning didn’t really affect the plant’s success at all. So whether you use secateurs or a chain saw, cut back to about half of last summer’s height.

After pruning, paint any cuts wider than a straw with a sealing compound (Elmer’s glue will do fine) to discourage insects and disease. Your roses should now be ready for the 2011 blooming season.

PSSSST: Roses are greedy feeders, so after pruning, give them a dose of rose fertilizer – I use plain old 10-10-10. You can also sprinkle ¼ cup of Epsom salts around each bush to encourage basal breaks.

Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, blogs regularly at Diggin’ It. She’s an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To read more by Lynn, .You can also follow her on Twitter.

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