Early Summer Pruning

Early summer is here and is a great time to prune back specific plants. Pruning can be intimidating because of timing so we hope this helps make your early summer pruning easier & successful.

SHRUBS If your shrub bloomed this Spring (and has finished blooming), now is a great time to prune. Common shrubs in this category are Forsythia, Weigelia, Viburnums, Azaleas, & Lilac. You can prune stems to shape them to be more uniform, prune the tallest stems off at the ground to encourage fresh new growth at the ground and on the remaining stems. If you don’t prune a lot of Spring flowering shrubs now, it will likely be too late to do it later without interfering with next season’s blooms. Most shrubs are sized to where hand pruners are the best choice for this job. Some examples are:

  • Landscape/shrub style knockouts can be lightly pruned to remove dead bloom heads and wayward stalks as you wish. If a big flush of flowering causes your plant to look unkept, try pruning back 1/4 of the plant and removing dead blooms to encourage a flush of new growth and blooms.
  • Azaleas should be pruned now – it’s best to not prune them past mid-July to avoid interfering with the bloom set for next Spring. Azaleas look best with a natural style so don’t try to cut into a more formal shape like a boxwood. Generally, avoid pruning back branches by more than 1/3 to avoid stress/shock on the plant.
  • Lilacs can be pruned after the last of the flowers have finished. Remove dead or wayward branches and any old flower heads.As individual flower stalks fade, you can also remove these which allows the plant to direct energy to those next year blooms! This is best performed within a few weeks from blooming finishing to avoid interfering with next year’s blooms.
  • Forsythia bloom on old wood so the same rule applies. Prune within a few weeks of the plant finishing flowering to avoid interfering with next year’s blooms. You can also remove overcrowded inner stems that don’t allow for good airflow and any dead or damaged branches.


You can prune summer flowering perennials BUT it can delay blooming. Pruning in early summer does provide the benefit of creating a bushier plant as the plant will branch out where pruned and will result in more flower heads. Most perennials do not require pruning in early summer but it can provide a neater appearance. Some example of perennials to prune now:

  • Nepeta ‘Catmint’ can be pruned back once the flowers have died back and begin to look poor – this will encourage the plant to put out a fresh crop of blooms.
  • Monarda ‘Bee Balm’ prune back dead blossoms before they form seed heads to encourage more flowers and keep a neat appearance
  • Coneflowers can prune out stalks as the stalk finishing blooming. Prune the stalk from the base of the plant
  • Phlox Creeping and Tall varieties can both be pruned after flowering. Shear off the faded growth and blooms of the creeping varieties and prune back bloom stalks once they have faded from the base of the plant. Tall Garden Phlox also loves good airflow so if your plant seems crowded then prune out any crowding stems leaving 5-6 of the best stems on the plant.
  • Heuchera ‘Coral Bells’ can have their bloom stalks removed either before or after fading. It’s also a great time to clean up any lower growth that may have died back at the bottom of the plant.
  • Achillea ‘Yarrow’ can be pruned when it begins to look ragged after flowering. Remove dead blooms and cut back at a healthy looking node to trim up and hopefully encourage a fresh flush of growth.


  • Chives can be cut after flowering all the way to the ground if you want to dry in bulk. (The flowers can be used in food, too!) You can also just prune off sections that you want to use from the base. Chives will rapidly re-grow.
  • Basil usually hasn’t flowered yet but it’s best to prune Basil before flowering so keep an eye on your plant. You can remove flower buds as you see them begin to form if you aren’t ready to harvest any Basil
  • Cilantro will start to bolt as it gets hot so you can either harvest the seed (which is coriander) or the plant will often self-sow and drop seed.
  • Mint if looking leggy can be pruned back this time of year or later in the summer
  • Tomato plants benefit from removing all branch shoots that are below the first flower (this can help with disease)

Have specific pruning questions? Just contact us!

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