When Can I Cut Back Gardenia?

'Miami Supreme' gardenia. The garden's most fragrant plant. Photo by Steve Bender. .

Faithful reader, Andy, asks: "Our gardenia bushes have grown out of control and I want to prune them back. What's the best time of year to do this?"

Grumpy's sure-fire, no messing around, always guaranteed correct answer: Gardenia blooms on new growth, so you can prune it now, this winter, or early spring without eliminating the blooms. Cut it back as far as you need to. The only time you don't want to prune is when it's setting flower buds or you'll cut off all the flowers. These buds form at the ends of the stems and are quite large and obvious.

What about cutting back other shrubs now? Well, if it's a non-flowering or summer-flowering shrub, it's OK. However, if it blooms in spring (like azalea, forsythia, spirea, lilac, rhododendron, quince, viburnum, loropetalum, etc.) and you cut it back now, you'll cut off all the flower buds. Wait to prune until after it blooms.

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