Answer: It would probably be better to wait until early spring and then remove any broken or winter killed branches rather than prune it back ahead of time. This plant should be reliably hardy well into zone 3. The branches provide a modicum of winter protection to the crown and are naturally structured to withstand weather. Pruning in the early season will stimulate additional vigorous growth; a regular routine of renewal pruning is probably a good idea with this shrub. To do that, each spring trim away about a third of the oldest branches or stems by cutting them off at the base near the ground. Alternatively, you could cut the entire plant off at the ground each spring. Either method will keep a steady supply of new growth coming on. For supplemental winter protection you could apply several inches of organic mulch over the root zone (do not place it up against the stems) and make sure it is well watered in late fall before the ground freezes for the winter. Enjoy your ninebark!
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