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Pruning trees and shrubs can promote healthy growth, remove old, dead wood and extend blooming for many plants. This is beneficial for the plant, in that it revitalizes and stimulates new growth. It is beneficial for the gardener, as well! A healthier plant is a lovelier plant, with more blossoms, an attractive shape and lots of natural beauty.


Proper tools are needed for the job, depending on the size and type of plant you are pruning. Hedge clippers, pruning shears and loppers are all handy to have for various pruning jobs. For big jobs, like cutting thick tree limbs, a handsaw may be used. But for many pruning tasks in the garden, the smaller tools do nicely.

When pruning trees and shrubs, the first task is to remove dead wood, which would be any wood without leaves, which is dry and breaks easily. It is important to remove wood that is damaged in any way, either by weather, accident or disease. Otherwise, the plant will put all of its energy into trying to heal the damaged portion of the plant, rather than focusing on its overall health. This is usually a waste of energy, since the damage is often irreparable. You may also want to prune any branches that are growing into pathways or crowding other plants. Stepping back and looking at the overall shape of a tree or shrub can be helpful to get you started. Visualize the finished shape that will fit in the design and the scope of the landscape.



There are several pruning techniques that can be handy to use. The first is called thinning, which is to remove branches where they join at the stem, cutting just above the branch collar (the raised area at the base of a branch), to encourage quicker healing. Heading is another useful technique that promotes new growth: this involves cutting a branch back to where a bud has formed or to the tip of a side branch. Thinning should be used to cut back dead and damaged wood, and to help a plant regain a healthy shape; heading should be used to stimulate new branch growth in a plant. Renewal pruning, cutting the plant back to just a few inches above the soil, is another great technique to stimulate fresh growth in shrubs and cut back the thick, woody stems. This works well for Hydrangea and Potentillas.

Many trees and shrubs require regular pruning in order to thrive. Fruit trees should be pruned to encourage more fruit production. Some shrubs, like deciduous Viburnum, need to be pruned immediately after flowering to ensure that they will bloom the following spring. Most roses can be pruned quite heavily, by making sharp, clean cuts at a 45° angle, just above the buds. A good general rule is to cut the bush back by a third and to just leave the biggest, strongest canes to grow.


Regular pruning adds vitality to many plants, trees and shrubs, as well as making them more attractive and colorful.