Rejuvenation Pruning: Why, When And How?

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).

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

Keep reading!

Step By Step: How to Perform Rejuvenation Pruning

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 to 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 ever 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 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, they 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 is one that doesn’t 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 it 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.

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.


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

Take care!

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