RHS gardening expert reveals the trick to pruning in January to make your plants look better than ever

These RHS-approved winter pruning tips will ensure your garden is flourishing come spring and summer

Pruning in winter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pruning is one of the best jobs to do in winter to keep your garden looking its best, but is not the time to be soft-handed if you want your garden to flourish in spring and summer.

If you think pruning involves gently picking at a few leaves with your secateurs, we're here to let you in on a secret. Beautiful summer garden ideas favour the bold, and according to RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor Guy Barter now is the time to prune back hard if you want your plants to look better than ever. 

'Once the leaves have fallen, you can prune pretty much as you'd like,' Guy explains as his general rule for pruning in winter. 'I would say you can prune anything that is deciduous, leave evergreens to spring because they need their leaves to keep them alive.'

Winter pruning advice

'Deciduous plants lose their leaves in the autumn, all their food reserves are in their roots, so you can prune them and you won't deplete their energy,' he explains. 'So things like apples and pears, soft fruits like black currant and raspberries you can prune in winter.' 

A snow-covered garden with a cottage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

'When you're pruning at this time of year, you get quite strong regrowth because all the reserves are in the roots,' he continues. 

'So the kind of things we prune at this time of year are things that you want new shoots, and that includes newly planted things where you shape them, cut into an inward or outward to shape, its growth is where you cut,' he points out. 'You'll induce growth on things that need flowers on a young shoot.'

'For apples and pears, prune in the winter in the same way to remove some of the wood each year to keep the tree from getting too big to avoid getting ancient wood that isn't fruitful.'

Apple tree in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

So if you ever wondered why your neighbour's garden always seems to look that little better than yours take this time to prune seriously, and don't be scared to take the plant right back. Whether that's winter pruning wisteria or pruning apple trees, when making your cuts keep in mind that every cut will lead to new growth.

Guy's final top tip to make the most of your winter pruning is to invest in a pruning saw. Pruning saws are shaped in a curve so you can get them in and out of tight spaces. 

'They only cut when they've been pulled towards you.,' he explains. 'So with this kind of saw you can make very neat cuts in all sorts of difficult places, and they can handle wood up to three inches thick. So they're a very good tool indeed. 

Pruning in winter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'I recommend that anyone can get the best one they can afford. It's always better to make a few larger cuts with a pruning saw than lots of little cuts with secateurs.'

You can pick up a pruning saw from places such as Amazon, with prices starting from £10.

The time to prep your garden looks it's very best is now, so don't skimp on the right tools and get pruning.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.