Winter pruning: what to prune in winter?

Particularly in winter you may prune many different sorts of plants and trees, but you have to know exactly which plants to tackle, and how. We gladly inform you on what to prune in winter, and how to go about it.


Pruning trees and shrubs in winter

There are several sorts of trees that can be pruned in winter. By doing so, you help maintain their form, help to continue their vitality and stimulate growth and flowering. Examples of trees you can prune now are pome fruit trees like apple and pear trees and espaliers. Deciduous shrubs that are not fully grown yet can be pruned correctively. Since these shrubs lost their leaves their branch structure is clearly visible. Spring flowering shrubs are best left alone until after flowering. That's the time to prune them.


Pruning grape vines

Prune grape vines at the end of autumn or in early winter, before the new year. On January 1st - or very soon after - sap begins to rise again, which is why pruning wounds will heal only partly (or worse: not at all) and you may seriously damage your vines. Winter pruning is vital for vines since it stimulates growth, flowering and fruiting. Please make sure you leave sufficient fruit-bearing vines which will develop new shoots in spring. These upward growing vines branch off the cane and will develop new shoots next season.

Mid-March is the right moment to prune buddleias, roses and clematis. Pruning clematis is rather drastic: cut away all growth till about thirty centimetres above ground level - the plant will grow back fully and flower gloriously on new wood, which has grown that year. By pruning so radically you will stimulate flowering and rejuvenation, and also prevent the plant from getting bare at its bottom.

Pruning method

A plant's structure shows itself best in winter, making it a lot easier for you to see which branches to remove and which to leave. Prune crossing branches, steeply shooting branches (basal shoots) and, of course, diseased, deformed and damaged branches. After removing diseased wood it's wise to clean and disinfect your secateurs and other pruning tools, for instance with methylated spirit.


Do not prune!

Not all trees or plants can be pruned in winter. Shrubs and trees which are known for early rising sap are best left alone, such as maple, birch, nut trees and kiwi. Pruning these in winter would cause bleeding (sap continues to flow), thereby seriously weakening that particular plant or tree. Also refrain from pruning pome fruit trees like plum and cherry which are highly sensitive to galena (lead-glance infection), so prune them after harvesting. In summer pruning wounds heal much more quickly than in winter, reducing the risk of infections via these wounds.


  • Prune on dry and frost-free days only.
  • Make sure that your tools are clean and sharpened, thus preventing frayed wounds. Clean smooth wounds heal much more quickly.
  • Maintain a tree's or shrub's natural form when pruning.