Arbor Hills Tree Farm, LLC
Phone: (402) 895-3635
Fax: (402) 895-2961

What to Prune When?

what to prune when

With spring just around the corner, getting out in the garden and pruning those overgrown plants and trees may be on your mind.

Don’t be too hasty, different plants should be pruned at different times of year.

What to Prune When?

When to prune can be confusing but pruning at the wrong time is rarely fatal. Pruning at the wrong time of year may result in fewer flowers and fruits, but it usually won’t harm the plant in the long run. The exception to this is pruning too late in the season and encouraging a lot of tender new growth that will be killed back with the onset of winter weather.

Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

A general rule of thumb is to prune summer and fall flowering trees and shrubs in the dormant season (late winter / early spring) and to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs soon after their flowers fade.

The confusion comes with plants like hydrangeas, roses, and clematis because some of these flower in spring, some in summer or fall, some flower repeatedly.


Timing is determined by the class of the rose plant and the hardiness zone in which it is being grown. Most rose pruning is done in the spring, with the blooming of the forsythia as a signal to get moving. If you don’t have forsythia, watch for when the leaf buds begin to swell on your rose plants, meaning the bumps on the canes get larger and reddish in color.

You want to prune before those buds break open. This should be after the nightly hard frost has ended for your location.

More information

  1. Before you even start to prune anything make sure your tools are very sharp so you can get a good clean cut. Using dull tools leaves a ragged edge, inviting the possibility of insects and diseases.
  2. If it has a flower on it prune it right after it flowers. This includes lilacs, rhododendrons, forsythia and related shrubs. Lilacs set their flower buds for next year right after blooming. I tell people they should have their lilacs trimmed by absolutely no later than Fathers Day. You can do a rejuvenation pruning on an old lilac by taking out the old, big stems and leaving the young ones.
  3. Shade trees, ornamentals and fruit trees should be pruned in winter (November to March) when they are dormant. Evergreens, pines, spruce, boxwood and yews should be done in spring as they are finishing their new growth, normally toward the end of May.
  4. There are three basic types of hydrangeas — the round, globular-shaped mopheads, lacecaps and paniculatas. Any of them can be pruned early spring (March) or late winter, but we personally prefer pruning mop heads in late fall, after the leaves have dropped, around mid-November.
  5. Rejuvenation pruning on overgrown dogwood or honeysuckle hedges, viburnum and dentatum varietes should be done in late fall, almost Thanksgiving time.

Arbor Hills Tree Farm & Nursery

Arbor Hills Tree Farm, LLC is a family owned and operated business. Our tree nursery is located in a valley of rolling hills near David City, Nebraska. The tree nursery today consists of a large variety of high quality fast growing trees – shade, ornamental and evergreen, as well as various shrubs and landscaping plants.

We provide the Highest Quality Field Grown Nebraska Trees and Shrubs – directly to our customers, at the lowest possible price. Whether you are looking for trees for new home landscaping, wind blockage, commercial or residential, Arbor Hills will work with you to provide the most beautiful Nebraska grown trees available. We grow most of our tree inventory and transport in bulk in early spring – to a holding site in West Omaha for distribution. Most trees can be delivered and planted within 5 to 7 days if you reside in the Omaha metro area. We also source other high quality trees and shrubs from other growers to supply the Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa market.

Please contact us for any questions.