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Everything you need to know about pruning

A beautiful garden with healthy plants needs good care and maintenance. Flowers, edibles and vines are easy to keep in a good condition, as all they need is watering, weeding and feeding. But when it comes to caring for most trees and shrubs, there is one more thing a gardener should not neglect – pruning.

Keep on reading to learn all the major things a gardener needs to know about hedge, bush and tree pruning; and boosting growth.

Pruning 101

What is pruning?

Pruning is the process of properly trimming a plant by cutting away dead, damaged, superfluous or unwanted parts. The pruning cut is performed with sharp cutters at a certain angle to encourage the growth of new stems and branches. 

Why is pruning important?

Pruning is important because you keep the plants from growing too tall and bushy, helps you maintain the desired shape and at the same time, the new growth improves the overall quality of the tree or shrub. 

By removing deceased and overgrown parts of a plant, you allow room for more healthy development. The procedure enhances flowering, better fruition, and helps the garden green get thicker and visually appealing structure. 

How to properly prune the shrubs?

Prune above the buds

One of the essential things to keep in mind about pruning shrubs is to always cut above the buds. Following this rule will help you preserve existing fresh growth, avoid die-back and get better long term results.

Before you proceed, examine the stems and branches that need cutting. Trim 3-4 mm above the allocated buds and be careful not to damage them. Make a parallel cut in the direction a bud is growing. 

Note that angle trims are good only for single buds. Sometimes you may notice pairs of buds, located opposite of each other. If you find this type of growth on your plant, make sure to cut straight so both can develop. And in case you want to keep only one of the buds, then feel free to prune at an angle like usual.

Cut the old or dead wood

The whole point of shrub and tree pruning is to remove unwanted parts so fresh ones could grow. Therefore, it makes sense to pay special pruning attention to old, damaged and dead branches.

Deceased and dried out parts should be cut at the base of the plant or the below the stem where the damage starts. To trigger new growth, a green needs a healthy bark, so make sure the stems don’t cross each other. This will avoid die-back and any cross-contamination. 

When treating large thick wood, make sure to leave 1-2cm between the cut and the main stem. That way, the wound is able to heal faster and start spurring new growth in no time. 

Take into account the timing, season and type of plant before pruning

Some greens require specific care during different seasons. The best time to prune depends on the type of plant, its dormancy period and its condition. If you prune at the wrong time, you will get unsatisfactory results.

Flowering shrubs and trees are usually pruned in early spring (March or April), before fresh growth spurs. Ornamental plants and fruit trees are recommended to be trimmed after the blooming season. 

The pruning season for evergreens is from February to March. Spring blooming shrubs should be cut after flowering in the late spring, early summer months. The best period to prune large and tough shade trees is mid-summer. Dead and diseased branches and stems can be trimmed whenever needed, no matter the time of the year. 

If your goal is to revive old bushy greens then during their dormant period you need to shorten all stems to 10-12cm in length from their base. The same is valid for coppicing shrubs. That way you can boost the plant’s flowering and improve leaves colouration before the next growing season. 

Use the proper tools for pruning

Last but not least, when it comes to pruning you need a piece of proper equipment. Garden gloves and body protection are key to avoid incidents. But you also need sharp cutting tools to trim plants fast and uncompromisingly.

Garden scissors are good for cutting thin stems of bushy flowers. However, the best tool for trimming up to 2cm thick growth is definitely pruning shears. Both shears and garden scissors are easy to use and can be operated with one hand.

When removing large branches and stems – use long reach pruners or loppers. As for pruning of thick old wood – better use a pruning saw. These tools require both hands to trim but promise great results for tough and tall shrubs and trees.