Step by Step: How to perform rejuvenation pruning

winter pruning. Illustration: David Preiss

Deciduous shrubs require maintenance pruning to keep them healthy and in scale with their surroundings. Two techniques—extensive and gradual rejuvenation— are used to restore old, overgrown shrubs that are otherwise healthy. After rejuvenation pruning, a shrub regrows from its roots, becoming a compact, youthful plant with maximum bloom. This method is preferred for many flowering shrubs because it’s quick and easy and provides positive results. Rejuvenation pruning is typically performed every three to five years when a shrub begins to look gangly and woody.

Before attempting rejuvenation pruning, contractors should be sure the plant species will respond well to drastic pruning. Some of these plants include multistemmed shrubs, such as hydrangea, forsythia, cane-growth viburnums, honeysuckle, lilac, barberry and flowering quince. The preferred time for rejuvenation pruning is just before bud break in early spring. Heavily pruned shrubs will need extra care. Before pruning, it’s also a good idea to consider a shrub’s new appearance and the impact it will have on the landscape.

Spring flowering shrubs will not bloom the year of rejuvenation. Shrubs with a lot of dead branches will not respond well to rejuvenation pruning. If more than one-third of the branches are woody and without healthy foliage, the shrub will probably not respond.

Follow these steps to properly perform extensive or gradual rejuvenation pruning.

Step 1

Pruning angles

Become familiar with proper pruning angles to avoid damaging the plant.

Step 2

Shrub with pruning dimensions

For extensive rejuvenation, completely remove the entire plant 6 to 10 inches above the ground using heavy lopping shears and a pruning saw. Healthy shrubs will respond by sending up new shoots.

Step 3

Pruned shrub over time

For gradual rejuvenation, remove one-third of the oldest, unproductive branches. The next year, take half of the old, lingering stems. In year three, prune out the remainder of the old branches. While this takes longer to complete, the shrub stays more attractive throughout the process.

To download a PDF copy of this page from the magazine to use as a training tool at your company, click here.

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension; Colorado State University Extension
Illustrations: David Preiss

LM Staff

LM Staff

Landscape Management's staff brings together collective experience in journalism, research, writing, and editing. Our team stays tapped into the pulse of the industry, covering a wide range topics with a commitment to delivering compelling stories and high-quality content.

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