Pruning Spirea

Aug. 23, 2010

Pruning Spirea is probably one of the EASIEST things to do. In fact you cant really go wrong. Its recommended that you prune spirea every other year so it doesnt grow wildly out of control.

You can cut back the overgrown branches to shape your plant, or you can do what is referred to as rejuvenation pruning to promote new growth and better flowering. First, cut out all the dead stuff. Then cut 1/3 of the branches straight to the ground where you would like fresh growth. Give it some room to breath, keep it watered, then let it do its magic.

Theres some confusion online as to WHEN spirea can be pruned to keep its flowers. There are different types and each bloom at a different time, so a good rule of thumb is to prune right after its finished blooming. In the case of these sad shrubs I picked up, I had a feeling it didn’t matter how much I hack off and when. So I did something kind of crazy.

I scored two Bridal Wreath Spirea shrubs from a neighbor. Being old bushes, getting them to budge was incredibly difficult. One shrub had grown completely sideways, I had cut the top off to fit it in my car. The other fell apart in my hands. Im not exactly proud to admit that job was a mess. What I put these poor plants through.

Luckily, Spirea is one tough shrub. After serious research, I learned that you can basically hack these things to the ground and they’ll come back even stronger… I wasnt exactly sure what was going to happen, but heck,  I had nothing to lose. So that’s what I did.

Pruning Spirea:

The large sideways grown spirea shrub after transplant on 8-23-10

pruning-spirea-large-8-23-10

The one that fell apart. 8-23-10

pruning-spirea-divisions-8-23-10

UPDATE! 9-23-10
It WORKED! Look at all the new growth.

The large sideways grown spirea shrub after just one month

pruning-spirea-large-9-23-10

The one that fell apart.. and now i have four!

pruning-spirea-divisions-9-23-10

If you have a healthy spirea in your landscape, you wouldn’t do something quite so drastic, but your spirea does need pruning.  Older plants can get out of hand quickly, so its a good idea to stay on top of pruning spirea.

UPDATE 5-27-2013
Well, it took 3 years, but these spireas finally DID flower again, and they are gorgeous! By now theyre over 3 feet tall and covered with beautiful flowers. Id say the experiment was a success!

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16 Responses to “Pruning Spirea”

  1. Gina G. says:

    Thank you very much! This was very helpful. I have 4 spirea bushes that grow like crazy – they bloomed twice during the Summer, the second time after I pruned them back. I wanted to prune them back again this fall but wasn’t sure how detrimental that would be to them for next year. I can see from your experience that they’re practically indestructable! Good luck next Spring!

    • Trisha says:

      Thats GREAT Gina! I’ll have to also try pruning back in the summer for a second bloom. From what Ive read, fall pruning is preferred, because the flowers bloom on new growth in the spring. I think the only time you shouldn’t cut them back is from early spring until the flowers die back. Thanks for the feedback! They do grow fast dont they!!!

  2. ed hastert says:

    when is the best time to transplant a spirea

    • Trisha says:

      Best time to transplant any shrub is in the fall or spring while the plant is dormant, after its lost its leaves and before the new leaf buds break, whenever the ground isnt frozen. Spirea is a little more sturdy so you have some leeway. I moved a smaller goldmound spirea in the dead heat of summer. It suffered a little, but came back with regular watering and the next year it was huge and gorgeous.

  3. Mary says:

    I cut my spirea plants down to the ground every fall! I’ve never hurt or lost one — in fact, they get fuller and brighter every year. To me, all new growth is preferable to new mixed with old wood.

    • Trisha says:

      Thats great Mary. Its so cool how much this plant can take… Do your flowers come back every year??? I never did get flowers back on mine.

  4. Diane Senter says:

    My goldmound spirea is flowering, but it looks very unkept with the tall shutes. Will it hurt the plant if I trim some of the shutes back to make the plant looked more groomed (rounded)? Thanks!

    • Trisha says:

      I would, Diane. The general rule is to wait until the plant is done flowering to prune, so you dont cut off the flowers, but If you know its branches/flowers that you dont want, why not prune away? If the plant is really turning into an eyesore, prune for shape now, then wait until its finished flowering and do a ‘rejuvination pruning’ This means cutting out 1/3rd of the plants oldest branches to 3 or 4″ to the ground. Also cut out any dead or weird looking branches. It opens up the inside of the shrub so that it gets better air circulation. It also stimulates new growth, which is much healthier and better looking than the old growth. Next year, if the plant isnt up to snuff, you can remove another third of the plant.

  5. patti says:

    Thank you so much for your post!!! I have spirea in front of my house to cover an unsightly pipe. The spirea has grown fast and furious over the years. Today, I pruned it and got carried away. It looks ‘naked’ as my husband says, and very ‘twiggy’. I left some green on the top, but when I ran the trimmer over the front and sides, I took too much off. I am hoping that it grows back by the end of the Summer. I live in NJ and it seems that my plants do well at the end of Summer, anyway:)

    • Trisha says:

      haha Patti, the trimmers have gotten the best of me too! Fortunately, its hard to hurt this plant. Depending on what type of spirea you have, you might lose some flowers next year, but I bet it will look better than ever. Spirea’s a pretty good grower too, so I hope you DO get a ton of new growth this year!

  6. patti says:

    It’s an Anthony Waterer Spirea. I messed it up last year, too, come to think of it, but the flowers came back nicely this year; not as vivid, but it was nice. Hoping it comes back. Now I can see where all the rabbits and chipmunks were hiding, LOL!!!! Hoping the neighbors don’t keep staring at it.

  7. Maija says:

    I have a monster of a bridal wreath spirea. I bet it’s 8′ tall and so big around it blows my mind.
    It’s gotten so big that it’s almost hiding my vestibule! I keep wondering what to do with it! I’m thinking I’ll cut it all right down to the ground. I wonder if I could somehow split the roots and transplant some? When I saw that you had one that broke apart like that it made me think it might be possible…

    • Donna says:

      I rooted bridal wreath spirea quite easily. I suggest you take some cuttings first if you’re doing anything drastic, just in case.

  8. Georgia says:

    I have a spirea that my mother planted over 60 years ago – yes it still flowers! Well a little anyway. It is about 4′ by 4′ and very twiggy. Can I cut it way way back now? I also have a bridal wreath that she planted – just as old. It is now well over 8′. Lots of leaves and flowers on the bottom 3 1/2′ then blank branckes for about 2′ then the rest with leaves and flowers. It looks like an hour glass from Wonderland. Can I prune that way down now or do I need to wait until after it flowers again in the spring. I would hate to lose these shrubs, I’m sentimental about them both…I won’t even go into her baby breath or hydrangeas LOL

  9. Beverley says:

    I cut my spirea to the ground last year as it was very old and a lot had died. This Spring it grew back just lovely only problem being the branches were so week they did not stand up, just laid on the ground. I had to tie it and brace it all summer. What shud I do with it now?

  10. Martha Coan says:

    I have three shrubs that are too large they have bloomed and are beautiful. Think the shrub is thrumbrug or something like that. I want the branches to be flowing so as to use for ikebana arrangements, unusual curve in branches, they are so enormous they must be cut back quite a bit, don’t want them rounded off., want dramatic shape when they bloom, how should the limbs be cut, at different lengths and by hand? Very much interested in knowing this. How will I see your answer?

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