Scissors and saws are in constant use in the autumn garden. In good time before the first frost, prudent gardeners cut back shrubs, hedges and trees. The reward for the effort is a well-groomed appearance and vital budding next spring. However, this premise does not apply to all garden plants. Are you wondering which plants to cut in the fall? This guide tells you the proper procedure for 15 plants.

Ornamental shrubs

Roses ( Rosa )
Experienced rose gardeners use secateurs in autumn for easy, nourishing pruning. The measure is carried out in addition to the main pruning in spring and aims to remove withered flowers. Bed roses and hybrid tea roses in particular react positively when they are cleaned of dead plant parts in autumn. This cut has proven itself excellently in practice:

  • The best time is after the end of the flowering period on a day with mild weather
  • Sharpen and disinfect rose shears
  • Clean off any withered flowers
  • Thinning out dead rose branches
  • Remove withered leaves from the rose bush

Please sweep up the clippings and dispose of them in the household waste. Often there are pathogens or pests in it, which prefer to overwinter on rose petals.

Oleander ( Nerium oleander )
In October an oleander finished its furious flower show. Before you put away the potted plant, a care cut ensures that the branches are tidy. Since the ornamental wood has already created the buds for next year’s flowering, the pruning requires special care. How to properly prune oleander in autumn:

  • Clean up withered flowers until the next bud
  • Thinning out sick, damaged and overaged branches
  • Cut back overhanging shoots to just above a leaf knot or bud

Always cut the middle branches a little shorter than the outer ones. In this way your oleander will develop an even shape and the sunlight will also reach the inside of the shrub. The Mediterranean flowering wood is so easy to cut that you can easily shorten the branches if the winter quarters are crowded.

Weigelia ( Weigelia )
In the sun-drenched location, the Weigela delights with a main bloom in June and July, followed by a second bloom in autumn. Immediately afterwards, cut back the flowering bush in autumn as follows:

  • Cut off dead branches until a young branch is this year
  • In the first autumn after planting, cut back 8 to 12 of the strongest ground shoots by a third or half
  • From the fourth year onwards, remove 2 to 3 of the oldest ground shoots every autumn

Please do not cut too late in autumn because after the flowering period has ended, the shrub will plant the buds for the next year.

Tip: The majority of flowering shrubs receive their central maintenance and clearing cut in early spring. The fact that you cut off withered flowers in autumn does not contradict this. Summer beauties like butterfly lilacs and deutzias gratefully accept an autumn cleansing cut.


Boxwood ( Buxus sempervirens )
At the end of the gardening season, it is time to shape edging hedges or flower beds out of boxwood. The very slow growth of 5 to 8 centimeters per year requires a good dose of tact when cutting. To make matters worse, Buchs hardly sprouts out of old wood, so that unsightly gaps arise if the approach is too ruthless. How to cut a box hedge in an exemplary manner:

  • The best time is between November and January on a frost-free day
  • Stretch cords along the hedge for orientation for the advantageous trapezoidal shape
  • Limit the pruning to this year’s green growth

If the box hedge has not yet reached the desired height, shorten the shoots so that the bushes can grow between 5 and 8 centimeters each year.

Field maple ( Acer campestre )
One of the many advantages of the field maple is its good-natured cut tolerance. Since the easy-care hedge plant has annual growth of up to 50 centimeters, pruning is on the agenda several times per season. For a well-groomed appearance during winter, cut back your field maple hedge in autumn. How to proceed professionally:

  • The best time is after October 1st, in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act for wood cuttings
  • Thinning out dead wood and removing weak twigs that are pointing into the interior of the hedge
  • Use a hedge trimmer to shorten the shoots to the required length

A trapezoidal cut with a wide base and a tapered crown is ideal for a field maple hedge. In this way, the light can penetrate into all regions so that the deciduous shrubs do not become bald.

Firethorn ( Pyracantha coccinea )
As an evergreen, thorn-reinforced shrub with a growth height of up to 3 meters, firethorn is useful as a privacy hedge. The rapid growth of up to 50 centimeters per year suggests that the hedge should be cut several times. In order for a firethorn hedge to shine like an egg in winter, it will receive a final cut in autumn for this year. How to cut exemplary:

  • The best time is between the end of August and the end of September
  • Shorten protruding branches
  • Ideally, cut off each branch individually with manual scissors, just above a leaf knot

To protect against the thorns, please wear gloves with long cuffs and protective goggles. You can remove dead wood either in autumn or in conjunction with the maintenance cut in March.

Cherry laurel, cherry laurel ( Prunus laurocerasus )
Does a cherry laurel hedge adorn your garden? Then dedicate yourself to the shape and maintenance cut for the last time in autumn this year. Please use secateurs, not electric hedge trimmers, so that the shiny, leathery leaves are not mutilated. The cut is easy thanks to the excellent cut tolerance:

  • The best time is in September to the beginning of October
  • In the years of construction: shorten young shoots by a maximum of half in order to encourage dense growth in height
  • Fully grown hedge: cut back this year’s growth and remove dead branches

Annual pruning is only necessary if you are cultivating cherry laurel as a hedge. Cut a solitary cherry laurel at intervals of 5 years in autumn or early spring and clear out the dead wood.

Privet ( Ligustrum vulgare )
A loose, upright growth, dense foliage and rapid annual growth make privet one of the most popular hedge plants. Where the easy-care deciduous trees like it, the branches gain up to 120 centimeters in length per year. Repeated pruning keeps the growth under control and guarantees an even shape. Say goodbye to a privet hedge with this cut in the winter dormant growth:

  • The best time is in September
  • Make markings for a hedge shape with a broad base and narrow crown
  • Cut back this year’s growth on the top and sides
  • Thinning out dead shoots

Use either a manual or an electric hedge trimmer. If you have prescribed a strong pruning of your privet hedge, please choose an appointment after October 1st. Paragraph 39 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act only allows radical cutting measures from this date that go beyond the annual increase.

Climbing plants

Wisteria , wisteria ( Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda )
After the flowering period, the time window for a conservation pruning opens for wisteria . The measure aims to curb the vigorous growth and increase the abundance of flowers in the coming year. How to cut wisteria in autumn:

  • The best time is between August and November
  • Cut all this year’s side shoots back to 30 to 50 cm

At the same time, please clear dead and poor branches. Where shoots are too close, remove the weakest specimens.

Jelängerjelieber, Honeysuckle ( Lonicera caprifolium )
Autumn is the cutting time for the wonderful creeper from the honeysuckle family. Cut Jelängerjelieber back like this:

  • The best time is from November to mid-December on a frost-free day
  • Cut off branches without floral life at the base
  • Cut damaged twigs back to 3 buds, counted from the shoot base

If the creeper is less willing to flower, a sharp cut back will stimulate growth. Between November and January, cut all branches back to a height of 10 centimeters.

Clematis ( Clematis )
Summer flowering clematis as Clematis viticella and Clematis montana, are pruned in late autumn. The species and the resulting varieties develop pronounced long shoots from spring, overflowing with buds and flowers. Such a growth behavior results in balding from below if the shoots are not radically shortened to a length of 20 to 50 cm. As a result of global warming, moving the dates from early spring to November and December has proven to be sensible. The increasingly warm winter climate causes premature budding, so that a spring cut removes numerous buds.
Please also subject modern, twice-blooming hybrids to a maintenance pruning in autumn. This is more restrained, however, by cutting back withered branches by half. The reason for this is the growth of short shoots from the old wood in the lower area. Clematis bloom on these branches next spring. After the first blooming period, long shoots sprout, on which the second bloom unfolds in summer.

Ornamental trees

Ball maple ‘Globosum’ ( Acer platanoides )
In the popular house tree, a strong flow of sap determines the best date for a shape and maintenance cut. During the growing season, the tree has sap flowing through it, so that a cut weakens the plant considerably. As the leaves fall, the sap pressure is reduced so that you can cut a spherical maple in autumn. That is how it goes:

  • The best time is in late autumn between September and December
  • Thoroughly thin out the crown
  • Then cut off branches that are too long and protruding from the spherical shape

Please apply the pruning shears or saw just above one eye or leaf knot. Use a knife to smooth wounds with a diameter of 2 euro coins or more. Then coat the wound edges thinly with tree wax to protect the valuable cambium wood from frost damage.

Tulip magnolia ( Magnolia soulangiana )
The tulip magnolia makes life easy for the gardener because its crown does not tend to age. The tree unfolds its picturesque beauty without annual pruning. An exception applies to old trees with an increasing proportion of dead wood. December is the ideal time to thin out an overly dense crown and remove overaged, widely spreading branches. When making the cut, please make sure that the scissors or saw do not damage the astring. The bead that is located in the transition from the branch to the trunk or guide branch is called astring.

Berry bushes

Blackberries ( Rubus sectio Rubus )
In November, loosen harvested rods from the support and cut them back close to the ground. Cut the side branches of this year’s rods back to a length of 20 to 30 centimeters. Then tie the shortened shoots again, because the hope for a rich harvest in the next year rests on them. On columnar blackberries, cut back removed shoots to 10 cm. Take this opportunity to tie up this year’s rods without shortening them.

Autumn raspberries ( Rubus idaeus )
In August and September the gardener’s gaze is directed towards his autumn raspberries. After all the fruits are harvested, cut the rods back down to a small stub. The raspberry bush will sprout again from the remains of the shoot next spring.

Tip: Perennials with attractive seed heads or evergreen leaves are spared from autumn pruning. Purple bells (Heuchera), bergenia (Bergenia) and sedum (sedum) set decorative accents in the winter garden. The same applies to ornamental grasses, such as Chinese reed (Miscanthus) and feather bristle grass (Pennisetum), which do not allow dreariness to arise in the empty garden with their tufts of grass.

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