Can all shrubs be pruned hard the same way as forsythia?

Q. Can all shrubs be pruned hard the same way as forsythia?

A. Forsythia is a shrub I put in a class I call “The Many.” That means when you look at the plant, it has many stems growing out of the ground (4-5 or more), rather than just one or two.

Most forsythia clearly have many stems coming out of the ground.

Other plants commonly grown in mid-Michigan that have many stems are:

  • Spirea,
  • Lilac,
  • Dogwood,
  • Deutzia,
  • Potentilla, and
  • Privet

Some varieties of Hydrangea, Viburnum, and Barberry have a few branches and others have many. Don’t get too concerned; just look at them and it will be clear if they are “many stems” or “few stems”.

The reason I bring these other plant varieties into the conversation is because they will respond well to the same care (i.e., rejuvenation pruning or hard thinning).

Why is this important?

Plants with many stems need to be thinned hard. By doing so, you will encourage new tender shoots to come out of the ground. Thinned hard means cutting the largest, oldest stems out as close to the ground as possible. This could entail removing up to a third (or even half!) of the stems on an annual basis. But don’t worry, this type of pruning will keep them from becoming overgrown.

Contact Bay Landscaping if you have any questions about what kind of pruning would be best for your shrubs or to schedule a shrub pruning appointment.


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Answer Provided By ...

Jerry Somalski

Jerry is a Landscape Designer, Project Manager, and the President of Bay Landscaping. He began learning about plants and landscape design as a young boy, hoeing in the family nursery and tagging along with the landscape crews who taught him the tools and methods of the trade. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Central Michigan University, he returned to the family business. Jerry has an enthusiastic yet practical approach to landscape design, focused on choosing the right plants (ones that thrive in the mid-Michigan climate) for the right place to create sustainable and spectacular landscapes. He loves to share what he knows with gardeners throughout Michigan! Learn more about Jerry >>