Don’t be in a hurry to prune dead branches on woody plants this spring! Last fall we had warm weather followed by a fast-deep freeze, and this spring we had an 11-degree freeze after some leaves were out. Some branches and some whole shrubs may have died, but most will put out new leaves. So, it is best to wait another couple of weeks before pruning.
To know for sure if a branch is dead, try the old fingernail test: scratch a little bark on a smaller branch; if the wood under the bark is green, the branch is alive, if brown, it is dead. Also, wrinkled bark shows it is dead.
It takes energy to put out new leaves. A healthy plant will have the stored energy to do it. You can help most by feeding with an organic fertilizer in September. Even in May you can help by applying a liquid, organic fertilizer, some liquid kelp or compost tea. A granular fertilizer will last longer but is not as fast to help.