Pruning Shrubs: Rejuvenation and Renewal Techniques

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Late winter and early spring are good times to give old or overgrown shrubs a new lease on life with rejuvenation pruning or renewal pruning, which are two slightly different techniques. Although pruning can be an intimidating task for many of us, these two methods are simple and effective.

Flowering quince is a deciduous shrub that can become a messy, overgrown thicket after a number of years. It responds well to two easy pruning methods: rejuvenation pruning and renewal pruning.

Flowering quince is a deciduous shrub that can become a messy, overgrown thicket after a number of years. It responds well to two easy pruning methods: rejuvenation pruning and renewal pruning.

Rejuvenation pruning

In rejuvenation pruning, you cut all of the stems down to the ground in one go. That's it. Deciduous shrubs that respond well to rejuvenation pruning include:

Lilac

Witch hazel

Spiraea

Weigela

Flowering quince

Deutzia

Mock orange

Forsythia

Red-stemmed dogwoods

Bluebeard (Caryopteris) -- done annually

Butterfly bush -- done annually

Renewal pruning 

Renewal pruning is a multi-year process. Each year, you remove about a third of the stems, cutting them down to ground level. Choose the oldest stems each year. This opens up the shrub, letting more light and air in, and spurs new growth from the base. All of this will result in better flowering in subsequent years and a better shape and more manageable size. Deciduous shrubs that respond well to renewal pruning include:

Flowering almond

Chokeberry (Aronia)

Potentilla

Cotoneaster

Deutzia

Gray dogwood, red-stemmed dogwoods

Lilac

Forsythia

Flowering quince

Rhododendrons and azaleas

Spiraea

Weigela

Witch hazel

Viburnum

Image credit: By 4028mdk09 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0