5 Plants You Should Never Prune in Summer, warn gardening experts

Pruning these garden plants over the summer months will do more harm than good

Compilation image of 5 plants you should never prune in summer including hydrangeas, laurel and delphiniums
(Image credit: Future)

It doesn't matter if you're doing it to boost your plant's growth or keep things tidy; pruning is one of those virtuous tasks that everyone knows is the hallmark of a good gardener... or is it? Well, as it turns out, there are 5 plants you should never prune in the summer. Ever.

From learning how to deadhead plants properly to mastering the pruning techniques needed for each individual specimen (think pruning roses and pruning lavender, to name just two), there's a fair amount of work and knowledge that goes into keeping a garden looking its utmost best.

It should come as little surprise to learn, then, that there are some hard and fast rules when it comes to pruning in particular – especially with regards to when you ought to be setting to work. 

Because, yes, pruning plants at the wrong time of year? Never a good idea...

5 plants you should never prune in summer

It doesn't matter if you're the proud owner of a modern garden, a cottage garden, or something else entirely; the chances are that, if you've been lovingly tending to an outdoor oasis of your own, it's filled with the very best garden plants you want to keep looking pristine.

Pruning them, however, may not be in your best interest – depending on what time of year it is, of course. In fact, there are 5 garden plants you should avoid pruning in the summer, according to experts.

1. Spring flowering plants


(Image credit: Getty Images – Left to right, Photos by R A Kearton | mikroman6 | Alex Manders)

Easily some of the most striking plants around, it might be tempting to prune these acidic soil-loving favourites come summertime, but Morris Hankinson – aka the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries – urges you to step away from your secateurs when it comes to plants such as Deciduous azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.

"These spring flowering plants should be deadheaded immediately after they have flowered in spring," he says.

Noting that deciduous azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias form next year's buds from August onwards, Morris adds by way of warning: "If you were to prune in summer, you may not see any flowers the following spring."

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

2. Apple and pear trees

apple orchard with deckchair

(Image credit: Future | Polly Eltes)

Counted among the key plants you should never prune in the summer, apples and pear trees ought to be left alone when the sun is high and the weather is warm.

"These should be pruned over winter, generally from November to March," says Morris, who notes that "pruning in the summer can cause stress, infection and disease". 

There is, however, a loophole to this rule; Morris says that trained fruit tress can be pruned in summer to maintain their shape.  

3. Hydrangea

Hydrangea close up

(Image credit: Future)

Thinking about giving your hydrangea a prune this summer? Don't! 

Elaborating on when to prune hydrangea Morris cautions: "If you prune these beautiful plants in summer, it will limit their ability to flower." 

"Late winter to early spring is the best time to give them a tidy up – and preferably spring because the flower heads look fantastic with a sprinkling of frost over the winter months. "

4. Early flowering evergreen shrubs

collage of three evergreen plants you should never prune in summer

From left to right: Berberis, Choisya and Laurel

(Image credit: Getty Images – Left to right John Caley | Alex Manders | Jason Jones Travel Photography)

If you're wondering which alluring plants you should never prune in the summer, be sure to steer clear of your early flowering evergreen shrubs, such as berberis, choisya, daphne and laurel. 

"Most evergreen shrubs can be pruned before growth begins in mid-springtime and always after the risk of all frost has passed," says Morris. 

"This means that new growth will hide where you have pruned. If they are still flowering, you can wait and prune just after they have finished."

5. Any summer flowering perennial

summer plants

(Image credit: Getty Images | By Eve Livesey)

"This may seem obvious, but if your plant is going to flower in the summer – don’t prune it in the summer!" advises Morris.

"If you prune summer flowering perennials before they flower, some may not flower at all. And, if you prune them straight after flowering, you’ll be removing winter interest for your garden and food/shelter for insects over winter." Examples are phlox,  iris 'Titan's Glory', geraniums and delphiniums.

Anyone who's itching at the bit to give their summer perennials a trim, however, will be pleased to know that "there is a method called the ‘Chelsea Chop’ which is where you can prune up to a third of stems on a perennial plant near the end of May", to coincide with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

"This can promote healthy new growth and extend the flowering period," promises Morris.


What plants should be pruned in summer?

While some plants should never be pruned over the summer months, there are plenty that will benefit from a tidy up at this time, including:

  • Spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and pruning lilac
  • Hedges and topiary, like leylandii and beech
  • Climbers (think wisteria and jasmine)
  • Rambling roses

It's also worth pruning tender plants that can be damaged by late frosts, including outdoor fuchsias, over the summer months.

What happens if you prune a shrub in summer?

If you're wondering what happens if you prune a shrub in summer, it's worth remembering that the answer will hinge upon the type of shrub. Pruning deciduous shrubs in the summertime, for example, will remove vital food reserves and damage their green leaves.

Evergreen shrubs, however, are best pruned after flowering – which can mean they actually need to be pruned in summer, depending on the variety.

Once you've made up your list of plants you should never prune in the summer, you have more than enough time. on your hands to set aside your loppers and serve yourself a cool iced beverage to make the most of your thoughtful garden shade idea instead.

We work hard on our gardens all year round, so we're owed a little downtime.

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is an experienced writer and editor within the world of digital journalism. She kicked off her career in magazines with Cosmopolitan as a news writer. Kayleigh then went on to become part of the digital editorial team at Closer, before a successful seven-year stint at Stylist, where she took command as the site’s editor and editor-at-large.

Nowadays, Kayleigh can be found freelancing for a myriad of titles including Woman & Home, along with a role at Ideal Home where she waxes lyrical about her true love: gardening. She is currently giving her own backyard a woodland-inspired makeover – and there have been whispers of a vegetable plot, too.