I am feeling a bit idle in the gardening department at the moment, I feel I should be cutting something back, but I don’t know what. I scan likely looking plants and shrubs, and I’m itching to get started.

One common reason to prune is to get rid of dead, dying, broken or diseased branches. Another is to get rid of branches growing downward or crossing, as where they touch and chafe makes an opening for infections or diseases. Get rid of ‘suckers’ on anything – they do exactly that, suck the energy from your bushes or trees.


Wisteria is something I am going to make a start on. It is a rampant climber with long vigorous shoots that turn into a ‘birds nest’ of growth, producing few flowers. Apparently, by pruning in winter and again in summer, you can encourage the development of short spurs that carry the flowers in the spring. Tie in new growth to extend the main framework over its support (which could be your fence, pergola or pillar), then cut remaining long stems back hard. You can do this from late October to March - the dormant season - then again in July to restrict growth and encourage flowering.


Oleanders can be cut back in late winter or spring. Pruning oleander shrubs is not necessary for the health of the plant but will keep the shrub tidy and control growth if you don’t want it too high. The time to prune oleanders and how to prune an oleander for best results are important. If you need to control the height and to encourage it to become bushy – try a bit of aggressive cutting back of about one-third and cut branches just above the leaf node to encourage new growth. Leggy ‘sprouts’ around the base should be removed.

Alfaroba or carob apparently don’t need pruning at all, though those little shoots that grow around the base or on lower branches should be removed before they get out of hand.

Evergreen trees and shrubs do not lose their leaves in winter and do not store food reserves in their roots. Pruning in autumn and winter could potentially damage the plant, as it can unbalance the ‘root to shoot’ ratio during a period when it is too cold to regrow. After flowering is the best time to prune. If the plant needs to be reshaped or severely reduced, now and early spring is best, just before growth begins.

Old flowers

Deadhead old flowers and cut back to healthy outward facing buds. Remove damaged, diseased, old wood and straggly growth. Take out stems and branches to improve congestion if necessary to balance the plant.

Pink Trumpet vines bloom on new growth and can be pruned in late winter or early spring. Established plants need pruning yearly to control their rampant growth. Remove weak and damaged stems back to the main framework. Cut the side shoots back to two or three buds from the main stems that form the framework.

Roses shouldn’t be pruned until early spring, but you can dead-head or remove diseased growth at any time. Cut the branch back to an outward-facing bud, at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch above the bud, slanting away from the bud. An angled cut allows water to run off, rather than collecting in the cut end of the stem, which can encourage the spread of disease.

I am no expert, so I checked out some sites on the internet, and found out these few hints about pruning right now that you might find useful. Allegedly pruning is a skill that you develop over time, so don’t be afraid to experiment and learn as you go, and don’t hesitate to consult a good book or the internet for information on pruning specific plants. By knowing your plant, and especially when it blooms, you will be able to prune it correctly.

They say that when pruning, a basic rule is that less is more. In other words, don’t prune recklessly; think about what you’re pruning before you make the cut. You can’t put it back once it’s gone!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan