What to prune in April – your ultimate pruning guide to get your garden ready for spring

It's time to start pruning in earnest

A butterfly perched on a buddleia (or butterfly bush)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Spring is finally upon us, which means it's time to suss out what to prune in April – especially if you want your garden looking its best for the summery months ahead.

That's right: just as you should research what to plant in April if you want to make the most of this warm (albeit showery) month, you should also take the time to brush up on all the hedging plants, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants that need pruning, too.

With that in mind, then, it's time to add 'pruning' to your list of jobs to do in the garden in April. Stat.

What to prune in April

'Spring is a busy time for all gardeners, and it can be easy to overlook pruning when there is so much sowing and planting to be done,' says Steve Swanborough, gardening expert at Henchman.

A garden with flower borders and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

'Pruning is an essential job, though, as it promotes healthier and more productive growth,' he adds. 

'It’s not just about giving your landscape a tidy appearance – it also ensures your plants produce an abundance of blooms and remains healthy throughout the year.'

What you will need

Before we list off what to prune in April, it's a good idea to make sure that you have the best tools for the job to hand. 

'Regardless of the plant you are pruning, it's important to remember to use sharp, clean tools to make precise cuts,' says Steve. 

To that end, he recommends purchasing the following items: 

'If you have a particularly large plant or shrub, you’ll need a sturdy ladder to allow you to work safely,' adds Steve. 

'Henchman’s Fully Adjustable Tripod Ladder is available from 5ft to 12ft and features three independently adjustable legs, clawed feet, a generous platform and guard rail so that you can work hands and wobble-free without a worry.'

The plants to prune in April

Once you have all of your pruning tools to hand, it's time to set to work getting your garden looking its tip-top best. 

Here, then, are the plants to tackle this month:

1. Forsythia

Forsythia plant flowering in a UK garden in spring

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're wondering what to prune in April, cast your eyes down the garden to that vibrant splash of yellow. That's right: now is the perfect time to prune your forsythia.

'Established forsythia can get woody lower down where there are less flowers, so April is a good time to prune after flowering,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

Morris advises that you should cut one in three old main stems down to the base. 

'If you have a trained forsythia, cut back to two or three buds from the main trained framework,' he adds. 

2. Evergreen shrubs

Structural evergreens used as borders, by Annaick Guitteny

(Image credit: Future PLC/Annaick Guitteny)

'Evergreen shrubs – such as hebe, nandina and euonymus – should be pruned back in April to remove any diseased, damaged or dead shoots, as well as to prevent overcrowding and allow good air circulation throughout the plant,' says Steve. 

'Generally, we recommend removing about a third of old growth for best results.'

Morris agrees, adding that 'newly-planted euonymus plants will need a prune during the first spring after you have planted them'. 

'To encourage a dense hedge or shrub, cut back the current seasons growth by about 1/3 which will help the plant to bush up,' he continues. 

'Remove any dead stems to give it a tidy up as well. Hedges can be pruned in April but always make sure there aren’t any nesting birds beforehand.'

3. Buddleja davidii

A close-up shot of the purple flowers of a buddleja bush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're unsure when to cut buddleja back, you're in luck: the vibrant butterfly bush is on our list of what to prune in April.

'Buddleja can get really untidy if left unpruned and the best time to do the job is in spring when the first new shoots appear,' says Morris. 

'Keeping buddleja pruned will ensure it stays in good health and produce lots of flowers that attract pollinators, making this a must for anyone with an overflowing list of wildlife garden ideas.' 

Noting that buddleja can be taken right back down to about 30cm from the ground, Morris adds that you should 'remove all dead and damaged stems so that you're left with a low framework that will look like nothing could ever grow from it. I promise: it will soon grow and possibly up to 3m high!'

4. Camellia

Camellias in full bloom against a blue sky

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A big part of learning how to grow camellias is knowing that they need to be pruned in April.

'These plants produce beautiful bright pinks early in the season, but by the end of April many flowers will have faded,' says Steve. 

'When this happens, it’s time to get it a light prune to remove any leggy or crossing branches, as well as to maintain size and form. Avoid heavy pruning, especially if your camellia has already set buds for the next season or is a young plant.'

5. Climbing roses

A terrace with vine-covered pergola, climbing roses and lemon tree in a pot. Romantic rose garden, summer residence of Elena Piletra. Villa near Lucca in Tuscany, Italy.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton Photography)

Now is the time to brush up on how to prune climbing roses, as these oh-so-romantic blooms are also on our list of what to prune in April... although, fair warning, you'll have to be very quick.

'April is the last month to prune climbing roses,' says Morris. 'Trim side stems to about 3 inches off the main stems and remove any weak, dead or diseased stems right back. It’s good practice to remove any foliage at the same time, leaving the framework clean and strong.'


What should I prune now?

As well as evergreens, climbing roses, buddleja, camellia, and forsythia, it's important to take the time to prune your perennials in April, too.

'We are encouraged to keep stems and seed heads of perennials on over winter, which provides not just interest in the garden during a quieter time, but also shelter and food for wildlife,' says Morris. 

'With other spring flowers now in bloom, though, those same old perennial stems can now be pruned back. Cut them back down to a few buds from the base.'

Lavender and ornamental grasses should also go on your list of what to prune in April, too.

How do you prune in the spring?

When it comes to pruning in the springtime, it's not just about cutting your plants into a nice shape: you should also remove any dead, diseased, or dying stems, too.

It's also a great idea to partake in a little mulching after you've finished, as a generous layer of peat-free compost or well-rotted manure will give your plants a boost.

Now that you know what to prune in April, all that's left to do is get outside and get trimming. We promise that your plants will thank you for the TLC with a gorgeous show of new growth when the time is right.

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.