RHS Pruning groups

The RHS Pruning groups help group woody plants by broad pruning principles.

Pruning weigela

Quick facts

Suitable for Trees, shrubs and climbers
Timing Various
Difficulty Moderate

Suitable for...

These pruning groups are referred to in our Plant pages. They are designed to offer gardeners a general guide on how to prune a tree, shrub or climber.

RHS Pruning Groups 1-13

Pruning group 1: Light pruning

These evergreen shrubs and deciduous trees and certain deciduous shrubs need very little pruning and are best left to their own devices in most cases. They do not send out vigorous shoots that need curbing. Remove diseased, damaged congested or crossing shoots. Shoots that are growing in unwanted directions can also be pruned out. These plants flower on previous or current year's growth.

Pruning group 2: Early-flowering shrubs

This group of shrubs flower in spring or early summer and produce flowers on strong stems developed the previous year. Examples include Philadelphus (mock orange), Forsythia and Weigela.

Pruning group 3: Shrubs which shoot from the base

These shrubs flower on the previous year's growth and send up large amounts of new growth each year from ground level or low down on the plant. They flower on one-year-old wood and older wood is almost entirely removed to make way for the new shoots. Examples include Kerria and Neillia.

Pruning group 4: Summer-flowering shrubs (Hydrangea)

Shrubs in this group flower from mid to late summer on the previous year's growth. Hydrangeas are typical of this group.

Pruning group 5: Deciduous winter and early spring-flowering shrubs

Deciduous shrubs that flower on the previous year's growth in winter or early spring respond to hard pruning after flowering. Examples include Prunus triloba.

Pruning group 6: Summer or autumn-flowering shrubs

For late summer or autumn-flowering shrubs that produce flowers at the ends of the current season's growth, prune in early to mid-spring when severe weather is past and growth buds are beginning to swell. Examples include Buddleja davidii, Caryopteris and Fuchsia.

Pruning group 7: Pruning for stems and foliage

Shrubs grown for the brilliant young stem colours are pruned very hard in late winter or early spring. All growth should be cut back hard to a stubby low framework or to ground level. Examples include dogwood (Cornus), RubusCotinus, Sambucus and some Eucalyptus.

Pruning group 8: Early flowering evergreen shrubs

Some winter, spring and early summer-flowering evergreens are best left unpruned except for removal of unsightly shoots and deadheading, unless some shaping is required. Examples include Rhododendron, Camellia, box, laurels and Viburnum tinus. Some deciduous shrubs also fall into this group.

Pruning group 9: Late flowering evergreen shrubs

This group of evergreen shrubs bloom in summer and autumn on the previous or current year's growth. They need little pruning. Prune lightly removing unsightly shoots as required in mid to late spring. Examples include Eucryphia, Escallonia, Fatsia, Hebe and Rosmarinus.

Pruning group 10: Evergreen shrubs

This group of evergreen shrubs flower on the previous year's growth in spring or early summer, or on the current year's growth in late summer and autumn. Examples include heather (Calluna), Helianthemum, Lavandula and Thymus.

Pruning group 11: Vigorous climbers

This group of vigorous climbers flower on previous or current year's growth and don't need regular pruning. However trimming may be needed to keep them to the space available. Examples include honeysuckle (Lonicera), Parthenocissus and Trachelospermum.

Pruning group 12: Moderately vigorous climbers

This group of moderately vigorous climbers flower on the previous or current year's growth. Examples include Bougainvillea, Plumbago and Solanum crispum.

Pruning group 13: Wall trained shrubs

This group brings together shrubs that lend themselves to wall training. They require annual pruning to keep them in check. Sideshoots need shortening and wayward shoots growing into or away from the wall removed. Examples include Camellia, Ceanothus, Chaenomeles, Garrya, Fuchsia, Magnolia grandiflora and Pyracantha.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.