Pruning Rose of Sharon Step by Step How to Guide

Rose of Sharon is also called Hibiscus syriacus, and it’s a pretty flowering shrub that produces stunning purple, pink, or white blooms. It’s a very low-maintenance plant, but pruning rose of sharon can help it thrive and give it a much more attractive and eye-catching look. You should get in the habit of cutting back your shrubs when they go dormant for the year in late winter or early spring. Remove damaged or dead wood before you deal with any criss-crossing offshoots or growth that is so out of control that it’s threatening your plant’s tidy look. To learn exactly how pruning rose of Sharon can help and the methods, read on.

1 Large Rose of Sharon Plant
Rose of Sharon is a very pretty, tropical-looking plant that requires pruning to keep it looking neat and tidy.

Best Time of Year for Pruning Rose of Sharon

Pruning rose of Sharon can be done in the fall or spring months, and the exact time to prune it will depend on the weather in  your climate zone. Generally speaking, it’s best to do so when the plant goes dormant for the season, such as very early in the spring before it buds or late in the fall after it drops leaves.

Fall Pruning

Pruning rose of Sharon in the winter or fall once the leaves drop for the season will give you more blooms from each plant during the following spring or summer seasons.

Spring Pruning

This plant flowers on new wood, and this means that you can prune it very early in the spring before the new buds come out. If you prune it before the spring growth starts, there won’t be any blossom loss. If you choose to prune it later in the springtime, you can lose a few blooms but the remaining ones will get bigger and stronger as the season progresses. However, when it comes to spring pruning, you’re racing the clock. So, this is why many people choose to wait until the fall dormancy period starts.

Rejuvenation Pruning a Rose of Sharon Plant

If you have a damaged, diseased, or very spindly plant, it may be a good idea to do a rejuvenation pruning session, and this is also called a hard prune. You may call it cutting it back to the ground too. Basically, pruning rose of Sharon in this way will result in cutting your plant off 6 to 12-inches from the ground. This is a severe pruning session that forces your plant to regrow. By cutting any and all competition growth away, the roots will revive, start to grow, and pull more nutrients from the soil to encourage healthy growth.

Why Prune Rose of Sharon Plants

Pruning this plant gives you a great option to aesthetically shape it, encourage more flower growth, jumpstart healthy growth, allow for better air circulation, and improve your plant’s overall health and wellness.

Also, pruning rose of Sharon plants is a great way to make it easier to manage any hibiscus grown in a container. You can grow it in pots outside, and this increases your need to keep it at a manageable size. If you pot it indoors, you may have success with it but it’s not recommended for this hardy brush. More often than not, the plant will die if you try to keep it inside.


Many people choose to grow rose of Sharon plants because they work well to add a touch of the tropics or beauty to a space. However, if your plant gets uneven sunlight, they can grow unevenly. So, pruning rose of Sharon plants helps you get a much more symmetrical bush shape.

Other people like to prune this plant because they can sculpt them into a vertically visual tree shape. For this effect, you’ll have to prune off any weaker, lower branches to give the bush a tree trunk look. You then prune the upper bush according to your preferences. Generally speaking, many people like to give the top layer a rounded look that adds visual interest to your landscape.

Encourages New Growth

When you go about pruning rose of Sharon plants correctly, you will strip off the parts of the plant that are less productive and weaker overall. Some branches will use more nutrients and energy than they give out, and this can hold your plant back. Usually, hibiscus plants give you plenty of growth in all directions, so removing crowded or spindly branches will help improve the plant’s health and appearance. Pruning it will also allow the plant to grow by freeing up energy stores for the blossoms and roots. It’ll channel this energy into the branches and trunks to give your plant a more pleasant appearance and shape.

Improves Air Flow and Sunlight Exposure

Sometimes, the more mature sections of your rose of Sharon plant will end up blocking the rest of the plant from getting fresh air circulated throughout and direct sunlight. One example of this would be a plant that has a taller trunk that spouted several offshoots that now form a very thick umbrella of foliage and flowers at the very top.

If the older branches aren’t as effective at fighting off diseases and pests or converting the sunlight it gets into energy, it can stunt the plant’s growth. So, removing the more crowded, older branches on your plant will help make it healthier while improving the appearance of the shrub. In turn, this has a positive impact on your landscape or garden area.

2 Pruning Rose of Sharon
Pruning offers many health benefits for your plant, and it can help ward off pests and disease issues later in the season.

Method One – Pruning to Stimulate New Growth

For pruning rose of Sharon plants to stimulate new growth, wait until very early spring or winter. Generally speaking, this is a very self-sufficient shrub to have in your yard, and it doesn’t require a lot of upkeep to be happy. If you decide that you need to touch up your shrubs, you really want to wait to do it during the colder months while the plant is dormant after it dropped the leaves. Doing so will encourage new growth once the weather starts to warm up again.

  • As a general rule, the best time for pruning rose of Sharon plants starts in March and goes until early in May before it begins to bloom or form buds.
  • Cutting back this shrub too early or too late can cause the plant to go into shock, and this leaves it very open to the elements while stunting the growth.

Clear Out Damaged or Dead Wood

Pay close attention and look for any branches that look like they’re brittle, rotted, or colorless. Get rid of these branches to leave on the healthiest, strongest sections behind. Try to cut each offshoot as close to the bigger connecting branch as you can. You can use pruning shears for most of this trimming project.

  • If you have stubborn or thick branches, you may need to get a heavy-duty lopper or a handheld saw to get rid of them.
  • If you’re not 100% sure on whether a branch is actually dead, try scraping off a bit of the bark. If the wood underneath is green tinted, leave it on the plant.

Cut Out Criss-Crossing Branches

Look at the shrub’s interior for any offshoots that overlap or wind around one another. If you see them, clip away the more crooked of the two branches at the base. You won’t have to remove both branches. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for twisted or tangled stems around the outer part of the plant when you work.

  • Along with making your Rose of Sharon plants look better, getting rid of these problem branches will open the shrub up in the middle. In turn, this provides airflow to keep diseases and pests out.

Remove Visible Suckers from the Plant’s Base

Suckers are very slender stalks that grow vertically out of roots from woody shrubs. They usually pop up out of the plant’s roots, and you’ll see them growing along the lower part of the main branches. They may also be on the ground right below your plant. The best way to get rid of these suckers when you’re pruning rose of Sharon plants is to snip each stalk as close to the base as you possibly can. Doing so will destroy the suckers’ connections with the root system of the plant, and this makes them much slower to grow back.

  • Once the suckers start to sprout and you cut them back, they’ll come back after a few months. So, you may end up cutting them back two or three times a year.
  • Not only are these root sucks not visually-pleasing, but they can also take nutrients from the soil if you don’t take steps to get rid of them as soon as you spot them.

Cut the Shrub Back Two-Thirds of the Original Size

If your plant isn’t doing very well or it’s grown out of control, it’s okay to strip away a large amount of growth and leave a smaller plant behind. As long as you have hardy living wood at the plant’s base, it’ll return to produce very large and pretty blooms in the spring.

  • The practice of significantly pruning away at the plant to leave a much smaller plant behind is a hard pruning session, and you may hear it called a rejuvenation prune. Hard pruning is useful for helping promote new, healthy growth in failing or older plants.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to prune your plant down to the bare stubs that are only two or three feet out of the ground.
  • Take note that the more branches you cut during this session, the fewer flowers you’ll have when the shrub blooms in the spring. However, the flowers that do appear will be much more vibrant and bolder since your shrub can devote more resources to the growth that you left behind.

3 Hard Prune
You can do a hard prune on your Rose of Sharon plant to help encourage new growth, but there is a chance your plant will die.

Method Two – Controlling the Rose of Sharon Size

To help control your rose of Sharon’s size, this pruning method works well and is popular for container-grown plants. You’ll remove any developing seed pods before they open to start. Look for any seed pods growing near the center of the plant in larger leaf clusters. When you find them, snip them off below the stem using a pair of sharp scissors. Make sure you dispose of any of these seed pods, and don’t let them come into contact with the soil.

  • Handle any seed pods you remove very carefully to avoid them splitting open.
  • If you allow the seed pod to reach full maturity, they’ll fall from the plant and scatter tiny seeds throughout your garden or yard. This could leave you with a host of unwanted Rose of Sharon plants in the spring.

Reduce Your Rose of Sharon’s Height

As this shrub-like plant grows, it has a habit of expanding upwards instead of getting wide. You can resolve this issue by pruning the branches that protrude and stick out well beyond the others at the shrub’s upper sections. To ensure that your plant looks neat and tidy, cut it to form a shallow “v” shape or gently round it off at the top instead of going straight across.

  • To get a more natural appearance when you’re pruning rose of Sharon plants, trim the individual branches so that they’re at slightly different heights.
  • If you leave this shrub to grow, it can get between 8 and 12 feet high.

Shape Your Shrub to the Environment.

Carefully trim off excess growth from the sides and bottom of the rose of Sharon plants to make them fit the area you have them planted in better. Remember, you can safely trim off 2/3rds of the plant’s overall size without hurting it, so don’t be afraid to go in more heavy-handed if you have an unruly shrub.

  • Strategic shaping of this plant can make it thrive when it starts to outgrow the pot it is. It’ll make it much more manageable and prevent it from blocking pathways or overtaking neighboring plants.
  • Remember that any flowering branches you prune away will start to come back in the spring.

Prune the Rose of Sharon Shrub Into a Tree Shape

Figure out where the point in the base is where the shrub’s largest lower branches start to intersect. Once you do, get your loppers and take off all of the smaller branches around it up to roughly half the new trunk’s height. When you finish, your once bushy plant will have an upright form that is very neat, and it looks very similar to a Japanese maple or a Crape myrtle.

  • Remove any new offshoots on the central branch as soon as you see them starting to grow to help keep this new shape.
  • While this plant technically falls into the flowering shrub category, a lot of people choose to raise them as a smaller tree, and this makes them easier to manage and maintain.
  • Giving your plant a tree shape can be very useful if the space you have in your garden or yard is at a premium and a full-sized shrub will crowd out some of your other plants.

How Much You Should Prune from Rose of Sharons

The short answer is that this really depends. Any new growth on your plant will usually develop vertically, but the branches will start to droop a bit once they start producing blooms. When you have the vase-shaped, shrubby form that it naturally takes, you’ll get branches that slightly fan out later in the season when the flowers bloom. You can get this look by trimming entire branches away right by the plant’s base.

To get a fuller shape, you’ll practice pruning your rose of Sharon plant back from the ends of the branches. During the early spring months, you’ll trim the branches back to get a rough overall shape you want and the volume that the shrub will occupy. Once you do, you will occasionally prune the plant to keep things looking neat and restricting any new growth to two or three buds at a maximum will give you more impressive, bigger flowers.

Another option you have available is to prune your plant down to one stem to remove any and all lateral growth up to a specific point. This allows the main stem to develop into a woody, thick, faux-trunk. This will give you the appearance of a miniature tree that develops pretty flowers. In this case, restricting the newer growth will help to create bigger and more stunning blooms, but you won’t get as many on the shrub.

4 Healthy Rose of Sharon
You can prune varying amounts from your plants each time you prune it to get the shape you like and remove dead or dying branches.

Will the Plant Survive a Hard Prune?

Your rose of Sharon won’t always survive a hard pruning session. You do run the risk of killing the plant with a very severe pruning, but most of them will tolerate it without a problem. However, if your rose of Sharon isn’t doing well in the first place, this is the best option you have. If you lose the shrub, it was meant to die and give way to a more successful and healthy plant. If you succeed, you’ll get a brand new plant that is much healthier than the old one. If you choose to do a hard prune, you’ll want to do so in the fall after the dead leaves drop.

What to Target When Pruning Rose of Sharon

When you prune the rose of Sharon plant, there are a few key areas that you want to target before others. They include but are not limited to:

Cross Branches

Cross branches are when branches in your plant overlap with another branch or cross. This can happen at your shrub’s base a lot, but it can also occur in the branches on the outer layer. This crossed pattern in your shrub sets you up for several problems if you don’t address them. For one, the shrub won’t look anywhere near as aesthetically-pleasing as other shrubs in your yard.

The other issue is that they won’t allow enough room for good airflow through the middle section of your plant. Disease and pests can take hold and thrive in plants that don’t get good enough airflow. In order to prevent your plant from getting too tightly wrapped around itself, you need to get rid of any tangled branches.

You’ll want to pick out the branch that is more twisted than the other one. Cut this more twisted branch as close to the base as you can. For any branches that are on the outer layer of the rose of Sharon plant, you’ll cut the branches that are starting to grow inwards. Keeping the branches that are growing away from the plant will make it look fuller, healthier, and nicer overall.

Dead or Damaged Branches

Before spring gets into full swing, one of the first things you have to do is get rid of any damaged or dead branches you see by pruning rose of Sharon plants. These branches aren’t doing anything by pulling nutrients away from your healthy branches on your plant. Any branches that are rotting, are discolored, or look brittle should be pruned away and removed from the plant. In order to end up with the healthiest shrub you possibly can, you need to get rid of the parts that are stunting the growth.

To do this correctly, you’ll want to prune away any damaged or dead branches as close to the bigger connecting branch as you can. Try not to cut your plant directly on the larger connecting branch to avoid causing any damage to the rest of your shrub. Pruning scissors should be more than enough to cut most of the branches out of the way, and the hardy ones will usually require a small hand saw. Also, you’ll want to put on a pair of thick garden gloves as this plant has thorns, and they can pierce the thinner gloves.

Stray Weeds

The more you prune your rose of Sharon, the more you’ll notice the small weeds that start to pop up around the base of your plant. These are suckers and they may not seem like they’re a huge issue at first glance, but they can suck nutrients from your main plant. The suckers are actually feeding off of your shrub’s roots, and you can’t dig them out. Instead, you need to work to maintain them throughout the spring and summer months. You should only have to trim them two or three times a year.

By cutting the suckers away close to the plant’s base, you’ll give yourself a few months before you have to do it again. These little suckers will mostly grow in the soil around the base of the plant, but they can appear by the main branches in the soil too.

Vertical Growth

Cut off any branches and stems that are growing straight upwards or downwards. These branches are called sprouts, and you want to take out the tallest and oldest stems first. Also, prune away any suckers at the bottom of the plant at the same time.

General Pruning Tips

Even though pruning rose of Sharon plants is relatively straightforward, there are a few tips you can take and apply to your pruning session to ensure you get a healthy and robust plant.

  • Angled Cuts – Make a point to make all of your cuts at a 45° when you prune your plants. Making angled cuts will prevent water from collecting in this space and encourage disease formation.
  • Dry Weather – Sunny, dry days are the best to prune your plant. Snow or rain can easily spread diseases and leave your plants vulnerable to rot.
  • Sharp – Use a sharp pair of pruning shears, saws, or loppers. You want to make clean cuts, so your tools should be sharp, clean, and free of rust.
  • Sterile – Sterilize any tools before and during cuts with isopropyl alcohol. Doing so will help prevent diseases from spreading, especially if you plan on pruning various plants, shrubs, or trees in the same day with the same tools.
  • Trim and Assess – When you’re pruning rose of Sharon plants, make sure you step back every few cuts and look at your plant. This makes it easier to get a balanced finished look.

Pruning Rose of Sharon FAQs

5 Pruning Rose of Sharon FAQs

Even though pruning rose of Sharon plants is relatively straightforward, people still have questions about this process. We’ve rounded up the most common ones and answered them for you below.

1. What is the best time of year for pruning Rose of Sharon plants?

The single-best time to prune these plants is between March and early May when the shrub is still in a dormant phase. If you prune it too early, the plant can go into shock and you can stunt the growth.

2. Is it possible to prune the Rose of Sharon too much?

Technically speaking, you can’t prune the rose of Sharon too much since it usually recovers when you prune it back to 2/3rds the original size. The more you prune the shrub, the longer it’ll take for it to reach big sizes and it won’t produce nearly as many flowers.

3. Can you prune the Rose of Sharon to the ground?

You can prune this shrub very close to the ground, but you should only do this early in the spring months and if the plant is unruly. If you haven’t pruned it in several years, you’ll want to cut it back to roughly 1/3rd the original size between 6 and 12-inches from the ground.

Bottom Line

Pruning rose of Sharon plants isn’t a hard process, and there is a lot of room for forgiveness during this process. However, pruning it is vital to having a healthy and thriving plant, so you should plan on doing so at least once a year.
Pruning Rose of Sharon 1 Pruning Rose of Sharon 2