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Pruning 4: How to Prune

Pruning is a necessary part of tending a garden or landscape; it plays an unrecognized but vital role in developing plants with vibrant, sturdy branches and outgrowths. Some of the main reasons for pruning trees include health of the plant, aesthetics and stimulating fruit production. Understanding how, when and why to prune, and then doing it correctly, can help you produce strong, healthy and attractive plants.
Some important pruning concepts to understand are:

1.      Read the information that came with the plant or you can consult a reputable source for further information and specifics concerning when and how to prune a particular plant. Remember, there will be some exceptions to the general rules.

2.      Always work with clean, sharp tools. It is recommended you disinfect tools between cuts in order to avoid spreading disease from one tree to another.

3.      Study the plant from all sides before pruning to estimate how many cuts are needed and what kinds of cuts should be made.

4.      Learn the proper way to cut. Always prune just above an outward facing bud to encourage horizontal growth and prune above an inward facing bud to encourage vertical growth. Cut with the blade side of your tool closest to the part that remains on the plant.

5.      Diseased, damaged or dead limbs should always be removed first. Next, remove any branches that crowd or cross through the plants center. In most instances, this is the all the pruning a plant typically needs.

6.      When large branches need to be removed, it is important to use three cuts. The first cut is made about a third of the way through the underside of the branch and six to twelve inches from the trunk. The second cut is then made about three inches out from your first cut. The branch should fall away; follow with the third and final cut by removing the stub back to the collar. Do not leave the stub. If the final cut is too far from the stem, the branch tissue usually dies and wound-wood forms from the stem tissue. Wound closure is delayed because the wound-wood must seal over the stub that was left.

There are several commonly accepted pruning techniques. The simplest method is to use your thumb and forefinger to pinch back new undesirable growth. This is also a great way to remove spent flowers or seed heads. Pinching can often reduce the need for heavy pruning later in the plant’s life.

Another technique is called heading or cutting back and involves removing a portion of the growing stem down to a desirable set of buds or branches. The heading method promotes flower and fruit production; it also persuades the plant to grow in new directions.

Pruning a plant by thinning refers to removing an entire shoot or branch back to the point of origin. This is a good way of controlling excessively tall growth and encouraging new growth in the plant’s interior. The result is a fuller, more attractive looking plant. Removing older, weak limbs in this manner often helps to revitalize an established plant.

Shearing is a common pruning method for maintaining formal hedges. When a plant is sheared, most of the growing points are cut back to promote a dense growth near the outer portion of the canopy. It is important to make sure light can reach the plant’s interior to prevent foliage within the plant from becoming sparse. This causes the plant to look hollow or leggy.

There has been recent controversy surrounding the practice of dressing a pruning wound as a way to promote faster healing and discourage further damage. The latest research suggests that using pruning paint on a fresh wound has little to do with preventing insect damage or disease in the wound area.

To be safe, always consider hiring a professional to help with high chainsaw work, heavy storm damage, rejuvenation of large trees, stabilizing a weak or damaged tree and any work near power lines. carries a wide selection of shears and pruning tools to help you keep your plants looking their best!


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