Pruning plants and trees in your yard may be a new idea for you. Or perhaps it’s a practice you are generally familiar with, but you haven’t taken the time to unearth all the details.
Either way, it’s a task that has to be undertaken to keep the trees and plants in your yard healthy and beautiful.
Pruning is an art form. You’ll want to hire an expert. They will get the job done and have the right tools, hard work, and a wheelbarrow load of patience.
The Definition of Pruning
Before we talk about timing, tools, and technique, let’s talk about what pruning is. Pruning is the practice of trimming a tree, shrub, or bush by cutting away dead or overgrown branches and stems to control a plant’s growth and development.
Each shoot (aka branch) on a woody plant ends in a terminal bud. Below the terminal bud, other buds (aka future branches) are positioned in specific patterns that vary depending on the species of the plant. The four fundamental patterns of budding are:
The terminal bud is the lead bud on the shoot. It produces a chemical that slows down the growth of the buds below it. When the terminal bud is removed by pinching, pruning, or breaking, the supply of this chemical decreases. And the other buds:
- Quickly grow
- Branch out
- Form lateral shoots
This creates bushier growth instead of long growth in spirals. Pruning almost always stimulates growth, but the amount of pruning needed will depend on the species of the plant.
The Argument for Pruning
You may have heard the argument that pruning works against the natural growth pattern of a plant and has the potential to damage plants or invite disease.
But when it comes to managed landscapes and other controlled environments, pruning is a necessity.
- Each plant in a landscape must co-exist with the other plants in the landscape. If one gets too big, it can physically push others out or steal resources like water, nutrients, and sunlight.
- At times pruning is absolutely necessary to encourage healthier growth and rejuvenate shrubs and plants.
- You cannot create balanced symmetry in an ornamental garden or design a well-groomed look without pruning even in a natural landscape setting.
- Young plants heal quickly from pruning cuts. While establishing young plants, pruning can get them into great shape and create a framework that will only require occasional pruning to maintain.
- Even unrestricted and older plants require annual pruning to keep them healthy and steadily producing fruits and flowers.
- Removing old wood through pruning allows young shoots to become stronger and flourish.
- Annually cutting damaged, dead, and diseased branches and shoots all the way down to healthy wood results in compact and youthful plants.
Although we are strong proponents of proper pruning, don’t get us wrong, no amount of pruning is going to fix an ill-planted landscape. And trying to severely prune a poorly chosen tree or shrub back too far to make space for others will inevitably damage it and cost you time and money.
When to Prune Trees and Plants
Trying to figure out when to prune your plants can be tricky. The good news is that pruning trees and plants at the wrong time is rarely fatal. If you prune at the wrong time, you may end up with fewer flowers or fruit, but it usually won’t permanently harm the plant.
There is such a wide variety of trees and plants that an entire book could be written about when to prune them. Here are a few basic tips we use.
- The one time you definitely want to avoid pruning any type of tree or plant is late in the growing season. Pruning encourages delicate new growth that can be killed by harsh winter weather.
- Most species of fruit trees and berry plants are best pruned while they are dormant. If you don’t prune them while they are dormant, the plant sends out suckers that will draw energy away from fruiting branches, and the plant starts to decline.
- While spring-flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned right after their flowers fade, summer and fall flowering plants should be pruned in early spring because they flower on new growth.
- Most perennials require regular pruning and deadheading throughout the growing season. They should then be cut back entirely either before or after the growing season.
Get Ready to Prune!
Pruning requires quality tools. And that’s why it’s important to hire a professional like Complete Landsculpture! We use quality products that will save you a lot of money, headaches, and blisters!
Our pruning tool kit includes:
- Gardening gloves
- Protective clothing
- Hand pruners (secateurs)
- Shears (Manual and powered)
Steps to Pruning Flowering Trees, Shrubs, and Vines
First, you need to understand two pruning terms:
- Heading cuts (cutting the ends of branches) – Encourages the branch to produce more fruit the following season.
- Thinning cuts (removing entire limbs or branches) – Gets rid of unruly suckers and dead or diseased material.
Although we can prune flowering plants at any time, shaping them soon after they bloom will yield the showiest floral display.
- If you aren’t already familiar with a plant’s bloom time, use the first season to note when it blooms.
- We use shears or loppers to remove diseased, weak, or dead branches after the blooms have faded.
- Then, we remove the suckers from the base of the plant.
- Lastly, we use shears to shape the plant by making 45-degree angle heading cuts just beyond a healthy bud. Some plants, such as Indian Hawthorns and Nandinas, look best when individual cuts are made with a small hand pruner rather than shears, aka pick pruning.
Steps to Pruning Perennials
Although the most labor-intensive plants to prune, non-woody perennials require are the most straightforward technique.
- We use shears to cut back any dead growth during fall or early spring.
- Next, we train the plant by cutting off parts that are unruly or digging up unmanageable offshoots. These can be replanted elsewhere or gifted to other gardeners.
- We pinch off flowers just below the bloom during the growing season.
- Lastly, we use shears or small hand pruners to trim excess, non-blooming growth throughout the season.
Note: Countless varieties of hydrangea plants are now available on the market. Some bloom on both old wood and others on new growth, which means standard pruning techniques may be ineffective for certain types. We check the recommendations for your variety.
What to Do With Evergreen Bushes
Evergreen bushes may need to be trimmed to become fuller to grow as individual plants or cut into a hedgerow. In this case, we are mindful of how much we cut back during the height of the growing season.
Give Us a Call
Keeping up with all of your trees and plants can be daunting. So, this year, don’t worry about pruning your trees and plants! We offer a full array of landscaping services, so give us a call.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful yard. We can help with your landscaping maintenance needs. Our Complete Landsculpture team is ready and waiting to serve!