Rejuvenation Pruning – Benefits, Types, Procedure & Frequency

For those who don’t know, rejuvenation pruning simply means cutting off old and overgrown limbs to allow for new replacement growth.

Plants that need rejuvenation can either be pruned hard or gradually. Hard pruning requires cutting the shrub off to a height of about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30.5 cm).

Also, rejuvenation pruning has to be done in a certain way to achieve desired results.

To understand what this type of pruning is about, we’ve gone ahead to discuss the different pruning types, which type or category rejuvenation pruning belongs to, and several other related areas.

In this article, I’ll be discussing all you need to know about rejuvenation pruning.

Keep reading!

Benefits of Rejuvenation Pruning

If you’re a bit confused about what rejuvenation pruning is all about, you might want to consider it as a way to “reset the clock.” By resetting the clock, an erstwhile misshapen tree is made to look younger and also grow better.

You’re able to better manage the plant growth by making its growth into a desirable shape.

Although this procedure is meant to enhance the appearance of a tree and promote better growth, it isn’t pretty at first. However, this is short-lived as plants eventually blossom.

Types of Pruning

To gain a better understanding of rejuvenation pruning, we’ll be discussing the different pruning types. They include cleaning, raising, thinning, and reduction.

Each pruning type serves a purpose as you’ll soon find out.

  • Cleaning

As the name suggests, this type of pruning seeks to strip a plant or tree of all unwanted limbs. Such branches may be dead, having low vigor, diseased, dying, or weakly attached to the trunk or crown of a tree.

Basically, this maintenance procedure seeks to preserve the well-being of a tree.

  • Raising

Under this pruning type, the aim is to provide ample clearance for pedestrians, buildings, and vehicles. It targets the lower branches of the tree for pruning.

  • Thinning

With thinning, there’s a need to enhance light and air penetration to a plant’s crown.

This means a selective pruning of certain branches (usually those having the most shade). Here, the cover provided by dense foliage is reduced.

What more? Thinning also helps keep a tree in shape and reduces the weight borne by certain tree limbs.

  • Reduction

Under the reduction type of pruning, the purpose is to downsize a tree. So, why would a tree be downsized or reduce? Simply to make way for installations like utility lines!

However, this is systematically done in such a way that tree growth is sustained.

What Category Does Rejuvenation Pruning Belong?

What is rejuvenation pruning?

Rejuvenation pruning easily fits into the thinning category because it seeks to encourage robust tree or shrub growth. After cutting down a section of the shrub or tree, growth is rejuvenated with new shoots appearing.

However, such shoots need to be thinned in such a way that the desired shape is obtained.

Two Types of Rejuvenation Pruning

When it comes to rejuvenation pruning, two methods stand out.

They are; gradual rejuvenation and hard pruning. Each of these pruning methods seeks to achieve a particular aim.

Let’s take a look at what each type entails.

  • Gradual Rejuvenation

Under the gradual rejuvenation pruning technique, the aim is to prune back about one-third of the shrub or three.

This pruning process is systematically done for a period of three years. Consecutive pruning of about a third of the shrub or tree is performed each year for 3 years.

This systematic process ensures that a greater part of the shrub or tree remains while allowing you to thin down new shoots or grow each season.

Basically, it seeks to ensure that a plant (shrub or tree) grows back to shape.

  • Hard Pruning

Hard pruning is a type of rejuvenation pruning that’s quite aggressive.

Here, we simply mean this pruning action cuts off the limbs of the plant leaving only about 6 to 12 inches of growth from the ground. It’s understandable why such type of pruning is called aggressive.

Such pruning is done in a definite way to promote the growth of new shoots. The hard pruning approach is mostly adopted when there’s excess shrubbery, thus making its management much more challenging.

However, it’s important to note that not all shrub or tree types can endure such pruning.

With new shoots appearing, you’re able to manage them much better by selective thinning. This ensures the plant grows into the right shape.

What Time of Year is Best to Perform Rejuvenation Pruning?

Rejuvenation pruning is best started in early spring. This can continue through summer. As stated earlier, not all plant types require rejuvenation pruning.

It’s best to have an arborist carry out all your pruning needs. Such professionals are trained and skilled in the science and art of plant maintenance.

Recommendations from such pros serve as a guide to picking the right time of year to perform this type of pruning. Plus, only trees that can survive the stress are selected for pruning.

Step By Step: How to Perform Rejuvenation Pruning

Rejuvenation pruning is a maintenance practice common with plants.

The process is known by several names including restorative pruning and also renovation pruning. From these names, it’s easy to see that the act of pruning has its many benefits.

Of course, it has to be done right for such benefits to be evident.

For deciduous trees, there have to be maintenance pruning routines carried out regularly. This has to be done in scale with their surroundings to keep them strong and healthy.

READ: Types of Pruning Techniques

Two techniques can be used to achieve this. They include –

  • Extensive rejuvenation
  • Gradual rejuvenation

These techniques are used to rejuvenate old or overgrown shrubs that are pretty much healthy.

When rejuvenation pruning has been completed, the shrub grows again from its roots. By doing so, it turns into a compact young plant that blooms at its maximum capacity.

This technique is ideal for flowering plants, this is because it is fast and simple to perform, and it produces satisfactory results.

It is recommended that rejuvenation pruning be performed every 4 to 5 years if a plant begins to look rickety and dry.

You need to be sure of your plant species and determine if they would be able to survive drastic rejuvenation pruning. If not, then they need to be pruned gradually.

Some plants that can handle rejuvenation pruning include variations of multi-stemmed shrubs like hydrangeas, honeysuckle, forsythia, lilac, and barberry.

The recommended period to carry out rejuvenation pruning is in early spring, this is just before the buds start to break. A plant that is heavily pruned will require some extra care.

You will also want to consider the look the plant will have after it is pruned, as well as the effects it may have on your landscape.

Plants that flower in the spring will not bloom within a year of rejuvenation. Of the plants that have a lot of dead limbs, they will also not respond well to rejuvenation pruning.

Likewise, if the plant has more than a third of its branches woody or without healthy foliage, then it will most likely not respond to rejuvenation pruning.

Stick to the steps I will list out below for the best results.

Pruning angles

Prune from the right angles, if not, the plant will be wounded or killed.

Shrub with Pruning Dimensions

To perform extensive rejuvenation, remove the plant completely to about 10 inches above the ground. You can do this with heavy lopping shears or a pruning saw of your choice. A healthy shrub will respond to this technique by bringing out new shoots.

Pruned Shrub over time

For the gradual rejuvenation technique, you can cut out a third of the oldest, most in branches. The following year, take about half of the old stems.

In the third year, cut out what’s left of the old branches. This technique of rejuvenation pruning will take a longer time to complete, but your plant will remain attractive all through the process.

Which Shrubs Can Tolerate Rejuvenation Pruning?

For rejuvenation pruning to be successful, you have to practice them on plants that can bear the losses. Multi-stemmed plants are best suited for this type of pruning.

Examples of plants that can withstand rejuvenation pruning include spirea, viburnums, and dogwood plants.

Be warned, if your plant has just one main stem then do not prune it. That would be a bad idea as it can kill the tree.

Also, do not try rejuvenation pruning on plants that are unhealthy. If a plant is infested with diseases, then you should treat them and allow them to recover from their ailments before you try rejuvenation pruning on them.

As for evergreens, you also shouldn’t attempt rejuvenation pruning techniques on them. If you cut them down to a stump, then that’s all you’ll be left with – A stump!

Why Rejuvenate a Shrub?

If a shrub is left for many years without pruning, it will start looking shabby, frail, and overcrowded. They would also have many old and unproductive limbs in the way of the productive ones.

If this is the case, then thinning the plant won’t be the best solution, they need to undergo rejuvenation pruning.

By the way, an unproductive branch does not produce any flowers or leaves, or they produce too few of them.

When you cut a plant the ground, you are just giving it a reset. This I just another chance for it to grow again and maximize its existing potential.

What you’ll get afterward is a smaller plant, but it will flower better than it previously had. At this stage, you can practice thinning so it maintains its beautiful looks.

If you’re dealing with plants that have colorful stems, performing rejuvenation pruning techniques will have them producing new stems that have colors brighter than before.

By performing rejuvenation pruning, you will also be doing your landscape a favor, since those ugly-looking branches will be taken off.

When the process is done, you will be left with a not-so-attractive stump while you wait for new growth. During this time, you will do yourself a favor by thinking of ways to conceal it until it grows again.

When To Rejuvenate a Shrub

Time is an important factor as far as plant care is concerned. Pruning at the wrong time can have negative effects on your plant.

As a rule of thumb, the recommended time to prune a plant entirely to the ground is in early spring. This is just before the new growth begins.

Rejuvenation pruning is done every 4 to 5 years, although some experts believe it should be done every 3 to 5 years. This is only done when the plant starts to look shaggy and abandoned and is filled with unproductive branches.

Do not cut all the stems on the plant during the process, as this will cause too much stress. When plants are stressed, they will have lower resistance to infections, so prune wisely.

How to Rejuvenate A Plant

You will need a pruning saw and loppers. Be sure to make clean, smooth cuts around the larger stems so make sure your tools are sharp. A torn bark or rough cuts would make it easier for pests and diseases to attack your plant. This will lead to unwanted rot that may kill a part of or all of the shrub.

For bigger plants, be sure to cut off the branches first, as this would help you reach the base of the plant.

How To Care For a Shrub After Renovation Pruning

After a plant has been heavily pruned, you willing have to give it some extra attention and care, at least during the first growing season.

Make sure you do the following –

  • Make sure it is well-watered, especially during the hot summer weather
  • If the soil is poor, then make sure you fertilize it to boost its nutrients in preparation for new growth
  • Always keep an eye out for pests or signs of disease and tackle them immediately

Limitations of Rejuvenation Pruning

Rejuvenation pruning is very useful for certain plant species, but it is not ideal for every plant. Some plants are off-limits for this technique.

Spring-flowering shrubs are one of such off-limit plants. If they pass through rejuvenation pruning, they will not bloom that year. This means you’ll be left with a hole in your yard.

The current state of the plant will determine how it would respond to rejuvenation pruning.

Do not attempt rejuvenation pruning under the following conditions –

  • If the base of the plant is large and woody
  • If more than a third of the plant is made up of dead or unproductive branches
  • If the tree is a small tree with only one or a few main stems

Be sure to check the base of the stem before you start pruning your plant. If there are weeds causing obstructions, then clear them out first.

If you’re pruning a lilac cultivar, ensure that it is not budded to a similar lilac rootstock. In a case where it is, do not cut it into the ground, as the new growth will come from the stock, and not from the cultivar.

It’s Never Pretty at First but…

When rejuvenation pruning is performed, it looks ugly at first as the plant loses much of its shrubbery.

In other words, such a plant initially looks bare. This look may last for a few weeks until new growth begins to appear. Such growth is in the form of shoots or leaves along the plant’s stem.

How Often Should Rejuvenation Pruning Be Performed?

In most cases, rejuvenation pruning only becomes necessary when plants become overgrown. This pruning practice is best performed every 3 to 5 years.

When hard pruning is involved, it may take a little more time for such a shrub to get overgrown.

Consider Hiring an Expert

Rejuvenation pruning can be easy work, but only if you know exactly what you’re doing. Pruning the wrong parts or pruning at the wrong time of the year can be harmful to your plant.

If you feel the responsibility is too much for you to handle, then you can hire a professional arborist to handle the task.

They are certified and they have a lot more experience than you in rejuvenation pruning. It shouldn’t cost you much to hire their services, it will also be worth it.


Renewal pruning is a bit technical and is best performed by a professional arborist. Of course, you’ll need the right set of equipment. Typically, loppers and pruning saw would suffice.

The procedure isn’t performed haphazardly. Rather a clean cut is made.

Try as much as possible to avoid making ragged cuts or having torn barks. When these appear, there’s a high chance of diseases and pests infecting the plant. As a consequence, rot is likely to set in, thus destroying the shrub.

Rejuvenation pruning is quite a basic procedure that serves to improve both the health of a plant as well as its shape. This procedure is best performed by a trained arborist.

I’m sure you’ve learned a great deal from this rejuvenation pruning article.

Take care!

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