5 plants to prune in December to start the New Year with a healthy and happy garden

Give your plants some TLC this winter

Close up of autumn-fruiting raspberries
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re wondering what plants to prune in December, you’re asking yourself the right questions. Now the temperature has dropped and we’ve experienced the first frost of winter, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to the hardy plants that will be staying outside during the cold months. 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to protect your plants from frost. And when you’ve done that, you can whip out your pruning shears and tackle the plants that need to be pruned before the temperatures plummet even further. This will help them ward off diseases and keep them in tip-top shape for fruiting and flowering next growing season.

To ensure you’re cutting back the right plants, we asked the experts for the low-down on the plants that need to be pruned in December. 

Things to prune in the garden in December 

‘December is the perfect time to prune certain plants, as this is the time that they're dormant,’ explains Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench. But which plants will benefit from this winter attention?

Headshot of gardening expert Steve Chilton
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

1. Climbing roses

Climbing roses on brick wall

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There’s nothing better than seeing the beautiful colours and the fragrant smell of roses in your garden. However, it’s important to give any climbing roses you have some TLC in December if you want to see them flourish year after year. 

You should prune climbing roses as soon as the flowers have faded and the rose is no longer in leaf. For many, this should be sometime in the month of December - but for others, that could be as late as February. 

When pruning climbing roses, you want to prevent wind or frost damage, and our detailed guide on how to prune climbing roses offers all of the info you need to know to complete this easy garden task. In general, though, Steve says, ‘You should really focus on cutting back the weak and thin stems in December.’

2. Wisteria

Wisteria plant growing up front of red brick building

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Famed for its Bridgerton-style blooms, Wisteria is an Ideal Home favourite. But one thing you might not know about how to prune wisteria is that the timing can be complicated. In fact, wisteria should be pruned twice a year - the first prune in summer, and the second prune in winter. 

Technically, you should wait until January to winter prune your wisteria, but it can also be done in December if the temperatures are cold enough. You just need to make sure that your wisteria is dormant when you prune it, which is when it will be fully leafless.

Then, you can focus on cutting the stunning spring bloomer back to just a few buds. Steve explains, ‘Along with pruning in summer, December is a great time to prune these plants back so that there are 4-5 buds on each stem only. This helps encourage a bolder bloom when flowering.’

3. Callicarpa

Close up of Callicarpa plant

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Also known as the beauty berry, callicarpa is a unique plant that will make an intriguing and unusual addition to your autumn garden. It offers small clusters of purple berries as well as dark leafy greens, but if you have one of these medium-sized shrubs, you should know when to prune it. 

The best time to prune callicarpa? Well, you should always prune this plant before it starts to flower, which means that you actually have a fairly large window to prune it. Any time between December and early spring works for this low-maintenance plant. 

Thankfully, callicarpa only requires some light pruning. You just want to focus on removing any dead or diseased branches and then cutting them back to a shape and size that suits the rest of your garden. 

4. Grape vines

Close up of grape vine leaves

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Perfect for south-facing gardens, grape vines thrive in sunny areas of the UK. And while they are fairly vulnerable to frosts and cold temperatures, they still require some pruning during the winter months. In fact, it’s imperative that this is done while the plant is in its dormant period.

That’s because grape vines essentially ‘bleed’ sap when they are pruned, which makes the plant extremely weak. Making these cuts out of dormancy could result in disease, but making these cuts during its dormant period will protect it from such disease. 

To prune a grapevine, focus your attention on cutting the vines back to one main arm, and cut all fruiting side shoots back to just two buds. 

5. Autumn-fruiting raspberries

Close up of autumn-fruiting raspberries

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’ve grown raspberries from shop-bought fruit or you’ve grown autumn-fruiting raspberries in pots, it’s important to understand when to prune them to keep them fruiting year after year. 

You can do this anytime between autumn and late winter, but this is a great task to add to your list of jobs to do in the garden in December. It’s also a very easy task, too.

To prune autumn-fruiting raspberries, you should cut all canes down to just 5cm. This should encourage new growth and new fruit next year. 


What plants to prune in December?

Although you may have already pruned a large portion of your garden in preparation for winter, there are some plants that require pruning a bit later in December. These include plants such as autumn-fruiting raspberries, grape vines, wisteria, callicarpa, and climbing roses. 

Pruning these plants during their dormant periods in December will ensure that they stay healthy over the winter period and will help to protect them from disease.

What should I cut back in my garden for winter?

Many plants benefit from pruning when they are in their dormant period, which is where winter pruning comes into the picture. Many fruit trees and deciduous shrubs require this treatment every year, but other plants, such as climbing roses and wisteria, also need to be cut back in your garden for winter. 

So, make sure you prune these plants in December before it gets too cold.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.