To prune or not to prune, that is the question.

Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness of pruning. It is very important to know a couple of things before getting out loppers and pruning shears.

Now is a good time to prune only a certain category of flowering shrubs — the ones that bloom during the summer. New growth they add in the spring will form the buds for summer blooms, so any shrubs that still have old growth from last year can be pruned back to the height and shape you desire.

Perennials that lost all of their foliage can be pruned to make way for new spring growth that will emerge from the base of the plant once the weather warms. Some common examples of plants in this category include crepe myrtles, abelia, althea (Rose of Sharon), butterfly bush, lantana, Am. Beautyberry, ornamental grasses that have browned, vitex, Texas sage, many types of roses, clematis, bougainvillea, salvia, turks cap, esperanza, guara, hibiscus and aster.

What not to prune

Spring blooming plants should be left alone at this time. They will bloom in the next couple of months on the buds they formed last fall. If you prune them back now, you will remove potential flowers.

This just happened to my bridal wreath shrub after a lawn service came through my neighborhood and accidentally pruned my spiraea into a small mound, taking with it what would have been beautiful white blossoms for the spring. Usually, it’s covered with so many white flowers you can’t see the foliage, Instead, I’ll be left with sticks and minimal foliage. This shrub is usually my pride and joy each spring.

Some examples of spring bloomers that should not be pruned include redbuds, plums, hawthorns, viburnum, spiraea, loropetalum (fringe flower), hydrangea, jessamine and azalea.

To keep mishaps like mine from happening, you really must know your plants and their individual blooming periods. Starting this year, take the time to notice each species, try to identify or label them and journal each plant’s bloom cycle and fertilizing and watering needs. If you do these recommended things, you’ll get the most from your landscaping selections in future seasons.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at

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