Last week I discussed how and when to cut back or trim your perennials for the fall. This week I will discuss what to do with your shrubs. The most-asked question I get about pruning shrubs in the fall is “When?” The rule of thumb is to prune immediately after the fall bloom for flowering shrubs, and in late winter or early spring for non-blooming shrubs (particularly for heavy pruning).
But as in all rules of thumb, there are special cases. Damaged or diseased areas should be pruned whenever the problem is noticed. Shrubs prone to ice damage like crape myrtle and butterfly bush might be reduced in late fall or early winter to avoid breakage.
Light thinning or shaping can be done almost any time, including fall, on shrubs that have developed uneven growth since their last shaping. This can be seen on many types of shrub and is the result of vigorous summer growth. These stems look like they’re sticking out of the top of an otherwise nicely shaped shrub, and often the growth habit does not match the rest of the shrub.