Proper pruning enhances the beauty of your landscaping and impacts how well your plants grow. However, it is one of the most neglected aspects of landscaping due to the seemingly low rewards associated with the task. This is a widespread misconception that homeowners should really reconsider—for instance, some of the benefits you stand to gain by pruning your plants include:
- Thicker foliage on your plants.
- Healthier plants by removing diseased or dead branches.
- The ability to shape plant growth in your direction of choice.
- A marked increase in yields in flowering and fruit plants.
It’s better not to prune your plants if you don’t know how to do it correctly. Poor pruning techniques can have devastating effects on healthy plants making them weak and deformed. Like most skills, pruning is mastered through continuous practice and having a keen eye for detail.
It’s common practice for most homeowners to prune their plants when it’s most convenient for them. However, have you ever considered that this might not be the best time for the plant? Read on to discover the best time to prune and which techniques actually get the job done well.
When to Prune
Pruning at the wrong time might not cause lasting damage to your plants, but it can still take a toll on that year’s flowering pattern or fruit production. For the best results, homeowners should prune spring-flowering plants shortly after the flowers start fading. Summer-blooming plants, on the other hand, respond better when pruned in the winter or at the onset of spring—just before traces of new growth start showing.
Many plants are best pruned in late winter when they’re just about to break out of the dormant stage. During this period, plants are less prone to getting affected by frost damage at the point of your cuts. It’s easy to spot damaged or awkwardly growing branches on deciduous plants at this time, as most plants are still bare. Considering that growth is about to start, how you choose to cut will determine the direction of growth.
The least desirable time to prune your plants is after new growth has developed later during spring.
How to Prune
1. Pruning Young and Flowering Plants
Young shrubs require lighter pruning for them to grow bushier. The best technique you can use to achieve this effect is heading. Using hand pruners, cut just above the lateral bud that has already grown a leaf. This encourages branches on the lower side to develop and enhances the plant’s natural form.
As the young shrub develops, cut out any wayward branches that come into contact with each other. This results in more sunlight reaching the middle of the plant thus stimulating growth and flowering.
2. Pruning Older Plants
Neglected shrubs that have become an unsightly bunch of neglected stems require a more extensive makeover to reclaim their lost glory. Thinning does just that. Use lopping shears and a pruning saw to cut out entire branches and stems—it’s recommended that you leave an inch off the ground. The tool of choice when cutting will depend on the thickness of the branch/stem you intend to cut.
This pruning technique will leave your plant bare, with little to look at since it relies on cutting off a big chunk of the plant’s parts. New growth can take time, so be patient as this could take up to three years to achieve the desired form.
Quick Tip: Make sure you’re performing the appropriate cut for each plant. A common rookie mistake is to make a heading cut when the age or condition of the plant calls for a thinning cut.
3. Shearing Your Plants
Shearing is best used when creating a hedge or a square-shaped bush. If you choose this kind of treatment for your plant, you’ll need to be consistent to keep its shape as shearing stimulates new growth. It’s best suited for plants that have small leaves because the damage cannot be easily noticed.
4. Training Young Trees Through Pruning
You too can train young trees in your lawn on how they should grow. This concept involves gradually raising the lowest branches of a tree over a period of years until you achieve the desired height.This will promote its overall health and longevity.
Newly planted trees and young trees are sensitive to any kind of pruning so it’s best to avoid it if you can. Young trees need all the energy and food they can get for the development of a healthy root system. Cutting out too many leaves is akin to starving your newly planted tree—the end result is a wobbly trunk that is a complete eye sore. Only remove broken, pest-infested and weak branches and avoid leaving stubs as you do this. Stubs are good hiding places for pests and less visually appealing. Always prune toward a healthy branch.
Which Parts Should I Prune from a Plant?
Here are a few things to look out for when doing your own pruning at home:
- Suckers growing from the root of the trunk
- Sagging branches
- Dead and diseased parts
- Branches that come into contact with each other
- Branches growing parallel to each other
- Branches competing with the plant’s central leader (the top-most part of a growing plant)
- Extra vigorous shoots (water sprouts)
Once a plant is mature, some occasional pruning is all it takes to maintain its form and appearance. Pruning isn’t just about shaping your plant, but also affects how well it grows. So what are you waiting for—Doug Ashy has all of the quality tools to put you on the path to perfectly pruned plants!