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When & How to Prune Flowering Trees & Shrubs

Hydrangea. Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash
Hydrangea. Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

This section covers flowering trees and shrubs that have been introduced to Marin and other California counties as a result of European contact. These tend to enter dormancy when days shorten and temperatures cool.

A separate section covers pruning NATIVE flowering trees and shrubs which grew in Marin and other California counties before European contact. These plants tend to enter dormancy when days lengthen and temperatures warm.


WHEN to Prune

Because the plants covered in this section tend to enter dormancy when days shorten and temperatures cool, the generally ideal time to prune them is in the winter. However, there are exceptions. Therefore, it is helpful to check the section below entitled “Pruning Tips for Flowering Trees and Shrubs” or check reputable print and online resources for advice on the optimum pruning time for each particular plant.


WHAT to Prune

First, do your homework on new and old wood
As explained in the section on “Pruning Fundamentals,” some plants flower and fruit on new wood, some on old wood, and some on both. Knowing the wood on which a particular plant flowers and fruits enables a gardener to prune each plant in a manner that achieves the desired pruning objectives.

If flowers and fruit are important
In this case, it is critical to preserve the wood on which those buds form when performing dormant season pruning.

If shape, structure & features are more important
If a gardener prizes some other characteristic of a plant, such as its leaves, bark, or branch structure, then the pruning plan can focus on accenting those features, rather than preserving the flowering and fruiting buds.



Pruning Tips for Flowering Trees & Shrubs

Choose from the selection below of commonly grown plants and trees in Marin to view tips and advice for how and when to prune them correctly.





If you are looking for guidance on pruning roses, please visit the Marin Rose Society website page on "How to prune & train roses".
Also, view our how-to video on "Pruning Roses in Winter" on this page.