The forsythia is blooming - time to prune

The saying goes that when the forsythia blooms, it is time to prune roses. Actually this is the time to prune many things (even before forsythia blooms). Here are a few things I always prune this time of year:

Ornamental grasses are very attractive during the winter months but before the new growth begins, it is best to cut them back all the way to the ground or you will have the old dead blades mixed with the newer ones and that is not pretty.
Set your lawnmower at its highest level and mow down liriope (monkey grass). You can also use the weedeater for this task.
Other plants to prune now (or the coming month) include:

Butterfly Bush - the entire shrub can be cut back within a foot or two from the ground.
Nandina - Cut about 1/3 of the oldest canes down to the ground. Leave the remaining canes.
Evergreen shrubs (including hollies) - prune right before new growth begins and danger of hard freezes are over.
Roses  (I'll post on this later)

(Prune only if needed!) - Summer blooming shrubs like Spirea, Rose of Sharon, PeeGee and Annabelle hydrangea (don't prune your mophead hydrangeas!)

Do NOT prune any early spring flowering shrubs or you won't have blooms this year. This includes:


Mock Orange
Sweet Shrub
Flowering Almond
Hydrangeas (Mophead (only remove dead canes or older canes. The exceptions are PeeGee and Annabelle hydranges which bloom on new wood)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. It is a pretty bush Phillip. Gorgeous arrangement Michael did for the Oscars. Did you have any damage from the storms. I see you had a bradford pear to come down - from the storm this week? Hope you both have a nice evening.

  2. I use the weed whacker on my liriope where I don't have to worry about cutting something else. To get in the tighter areas I use a long bread knife, just don't let my wife know.

  3. I have been busy in the garden lately too. Doesn't it feel good to be out there getting things done? Happy Spring.

  4. I noticed while plowing my new garden site up that my zebra grass is starting to come out and I haven't trimmed it yet. That's on the to do list when I get home from work today. I took over the veggie garden in daylilies. My flowering almond bush is starting to bud. Mary

  5. great post Phillip. I have been pruning roses all week. Will boook mark this post for future reference. Hope you are well.

  6. Nice post! I love the pictures, beautiful!

  7. I just made myself a note to prune the forsythia that never got pruned this year. The man that does our pruning and any heavy digging for us usually takes the electric or gas power hedge trimmers and shapes it round and I like it pruned in a whimsy style..My DH used to prune it the same way and I hate that. We live in Md. near DC area. When is the right time to prune it and how does one prune it the whimsy way?

  8. Fabulous advice. I'm still learning the ropes on gardening. I appreciate the information.


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