3 garden plants to ‘never’ prune in spring or risk ‘damaging the forming buds’

In the midst of spring, many enthusiastic gardeners grab their pruning shears to prune ready to trim away at their plants. Although pruning can promote healthy growth and help control size, it’s important to remember that this does not apply to all plants during this season. Pruning at this time can negatively affect their growth and lead to a lack of flowering. For gardeners to know which plants these are, Nastya Vasylchyshyna, gardening expert at NatureID, has shared which varieties to avoid pruning in the garden.

1. Hydrangea macrophylla

For most hydrangeas, late winter and early spring is the best time to prune and remove their old seed heads. This is because the faded flowers add winter interest and offer frost protection to the shrub.

However, Nastya advised against pruning this plant in spring due to how they grow new flower shoots. 

She said: “I don’t recommend pruning hydrangea macrophylla in spring because the shrub forms new flower buds on last year’s shoots.”

The expert explained that spring pruning will lead to “fewer, sparser, or even absent blooms”. 

Ideally, gardeners should trim bushes immediately after flowering, before the first frosts, so their plants have time to form new shoots for abundant blossoming next spring.

However, be careful when cutting the branches to avoid over-pruning – snipping too much off can also impact bloom production in the future.

2. Lilacs 

With their stunning appearance, lilacs are more and more becoming a popular choice in UK gardens.

Similarly to the species of hydrangea previously mentioned, the reason why lilacs shouldn’t be pruned right now is that gardeners will most likely be cutting off buds, resulting in fewer flowers.

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To get the most “lush blooms” and “avoid damaging the forming buds”, Nastya instructed: “Prune as the plant is finishing flowering—remove all dried, blackened, deformed, and broken shoots. 

“The optimal period for pruning lilacs is from June to early July, as doing it in late summer or fall may reduce flowering the following year.”

Pruning lilac bushes is important for their health and flower production. Lilacs are generally pretty hardy and if proper pruning is performed, they will come back stronger than ever.

3. Birch trees

While you can do a little trimming in spring, birch trees are particularly sappy and if pruned early, can “weep” that sticky sap all over the place.

Nastya said: “Spring pruning is never recommended for birches either, as they have an active sap movement in the trunk and stems even before the buds open.”

Formative pruning of the crown should be carried out in early to mid-summer to give the tree a neater appearance, as well as to stimulate the growth of lateral shoots. 

Renewal and sanitary pruning are “best done” from October to February when the plant is dormant. 

During this period, gardeners need to make sure the temperature is at -5C at the minimum.

For this type of pruning, the expert recommended shortening overgrown branches and removing diseased and dead parts of the crown.

When gardeners prune at the proper time, they not only avoid sap flows but also avoid the egg-laying season for most insects that infest pruning wounds. 

These insects cause unsightly damage, and they can spread serious diseases that can potentially kill the tree over time. 

Birch tree borers are tree killers, and gardeners should reduce the risk of attack by cutting after their early summer flying season whenever possible.

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