Why prune? 5 good reasons
(Never prune without a good reason!)
- Remove dead wood to support plant health
- Create safe, structurally sound specimens
- Enhance a plant’s ornamental qualities or train to pleasing shapes
- Stimulate vigorous growth (hedges)
- Enhance flowering and fruiting
Use the right tool for the job. Keep WD40 and a sharpener on hand. Keep tools clean, oiled and sharp.
Take a few important steps before heading out to prune. Observe the task and estimate the potential dangers.
- Protect your eyes & ears. Close proximity to falling or poking branches can be dangerous. Be prepared.
- Wear protective clothing.
- Use the right ladder for the job, make sure you have level footing and do not overreach.
When to prune?
- Spring flowering trees & shrubs set flowers on last year’s growth. Prune right after flowers have finished bloom. Pruning in autumn will remove flower buds for the following spring.
- Summer & fall flowering trees & shrubs set bloom in this year’s growth. Prune in early spring to encourage vigorous shoots and profuse flowering.
For more detailed pruning times:
How to Prune
- Plan cuts carefully. Make a cut, step back & assess the next cut, repeat.
- Prune no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Plants need to photosynthesize & will replace lost leaves rapidly by producing watersprouts or suckers. Exceptions are roses or shrubs that can be pruned low to the ground in spring (willows, red twig dogwoods).
- No tree topping. Removing the head of a tree creates problems in the overall structure of the tree. Thinning the tree over time or removing the tree all-together are usually better options.
- Good cuts are about ¼” above a growth-bud or branch & made at an angle facing away from the bud.
- Cutting too close to a bud damages the bud; cutting too far away leaves a bit of stem to rot on the plant.
Large Branch Cutting
Five Types of Pruning Cuts
- Thinning – remove branches back to a point of origin or junction with another branch. This lets you reduce the bulk of the plant & causes minimal regrowth.
- Heading – remove just part of a stem or branch. This stimulates lateral growth just below the cut and causes new growth to be fuller. It can cause plants to be heavier at the tips.
- Deadheading is removing spent flowers to encourage new flowers to form or to clean up the overall look of the plant.
- Shearing – indiscriminate cuts for shape. Used commonly when pruning hedges.
- Pinching – pinching off the terminal bud (bud at the tip of a stem) to create a fuller plant. Used mostly in annuals & perennials.