Is May Too Late To Prune?

Is May Too Late To Prune?

Whether May is too late to prune depends on the types of plants you have and what your goals are with pruning.

Here’s a general guide based on plant categories…

Trees and Shrubs

  • Deciduous Trees and Shrubs – For many deciduous species, the ideal pruning time is late winter or early spring before new growth begins. You can still perform light pruning in May, such as removing dead or diseased branches, without significantly harming the plant. It’s typically not the best time for major pruning, as the plants are actively growing.
  • Spring-Flowering Shrubs – If they bloom on old wood (last year’s growth), prune them immediately after they finish flowering, which could be in May, to avoid cutting off next year’s buds.
  • Summer-Flowering Shrubs – These often bloom on new growth and can be pruned in late winter or early spring. If you haven’t pruned them by May, you may still have time before they put on significant new growth that will bear flowers.

Fruit Trees

  • Pruning is usually recommended in late winter or early spring to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Light pruning in May is often still possible, especially to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged wood. Be cautious about pruning too much, as it can affect fruit production.

Perennials and Annuals

  • May can be a good time to prune certain perennials to encourage bushier growth and more flowers. This is also a good time to deadhead or pinch back spent blooms to promote further blooming throughout the growing season.


  • Pruning in May can be appropriate for certain vegetables to improve air circulation and reduce disease risk. For example, indeterminate tomatoes can be pruned to remove suckers and lower leaves to improve fruit quality and reduce disease.

General Advice

  • Avoid heavy pruning of most plants during the active growing season (late spring through summer) as it can stress the plants. Removing diseased, damaged, or dead branches can be done at any time.
  • Consider each plant’s specific flowering time and growth cycle when deciding on pruning. The goal is to prune at a time that benefits the plant’s health and growth without sacrificing flowers or fruit.

May is not necessarily too late to prune, but the timing and extent of pruning should be carefully considered based on the type of plant and its stage of growth or flowering cycle.