Examine your plant, each type of plant grows a bit differently, look for what it’s natural tendencies are unless trying for something unusual–prune to enhance natural growth habits.
Walk around the plant you plan to work on and mentally map out what you want to remove; keep in mind the finished look you are trying to achieve. This will also determine which tools you need. For example, a formal hedge will require the use of long bladed hedge shears while an informal hedge will require hand pruners.
Start by removing any dead or damaged growth–allow plants that are winter damaged to begin leafing out before pruning. Damaged areas may take several months to leaf out if the plant was seriously hurt! Patience!
If a disease is suspected of killing branches cut back to healthy wood 6 to 12 inches below the disease and sterilize your shears with a 5 to 10% bleach solution after each cut.
Sometimes if branches are crossing or if 2 central leaders are developing, you will need to select the best branch or leader and remove the other.
Prune out any watersprouts or awkward weak limbs.
Thin out old, less vigorous canes to promote new flowering/fruit bearing wood.
PULL suckers to assure removal of sucker buds which are present at the base of most shoots; this usually shows the formation or more suckers, try to do this when the suckers are small. Larger shoots rob the rest of the plant of energy and food.
For most shrubs, especially when smaller, head back branches or pinch back terminals to promote a full shape. This can save time for you in the long run and produce a more pleasing shape that will last without needing major pruning down the road to reduce a leggy, mature shrub.
Prune after flowers have gone by.
Rose of Sharon
* Rhododendrons need to be pruned immediately after flowering