When and How to Prune Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers Correctly

Pruning is important because helps your plants growth and their overall health.

What if you are new to gardening and this is one skill you haven’t picked up on yet and are afraid of killing your garden while you learn?

Well, you aren’t alone. I avoided pruning for many years for the same reason. I’ve since bit the bullet and jumped in with both feet.

I’m glad I did because now I can share what I’ve learned to help others embrace this vital gardening skill.

Here’s everything about the how what and why of pruning correctly:

What is Pruning?

I’m making no assumptions here. Someone could be reading this who is extremely new to gardening and haven’t even heard of pruning.

With this in mind, here’s a quick review: Pruning is when you cut the dead, awkward, and overgrown parts of your plant off.

The point of doing this is to keep your plants healthy and encourage them to produce and grow better than before.

Tools You Need to Prune

You will need three different tools to prune. They’ll be used for different types of plants. If you aren’t pruning each type of plant in your garden, you should choose the tool you need to prune the plants you do grow.

Here are the tools you need:

1. Pruning Shears

Pruning shears are great hand-held cutters which are perfect for pruning smaller plants. If you’re planning on pruning flowers or buds on a plant, pruning shears should do the trick.

2. Loppers

Gardening Shears

Gardening Shears

Loppers are a great tool when you need to prune large vines or shrubs. Choosing a quality pair is a necessity because if the loppers aren’t sturdy, you’ll be surprised at how quickly a stubborn vine can break them.

I recently finished pruning mature muscadine vines, and good quality loppers made a tedious job a little less hard work.

3. Hand Saw

Finally, a hand saw is an important pruning tool if you’re pruning trees. I recently finished pruning our small orchard and without a hand saw the job would have been tough, if not, altogether impossible.

When to Prune Your Plants?

It’s a good idea to thoroughly study the varieties of plants you have growing in your garden or yard. This will let you know which category they fall into as far as pruning goes.

Also, some plants don’t fall into one of these general categories. Researching will help you to figure this out in advance.

But there are five general categories which most plants fall into as far as when to prune them. Here is what they are:

1. Flowering Trees

It’s best to prune flowering trees in the late summer or early fall. The reason is that you want to prune them as they begin to produce.

If you prune later than this, you run the risk of cutting off fresh blooms. This isn’t good for the tree.

2. Shrubs

Shrubs should be pruned in their dormant stage when they aren’t producing and are preparing to overwinter.

In most cases, you’d prune them in late winter or the earlier part of spring when it’s still cool outside.

3. Fruit Trees and Berries

Prune fruit trees and berry plants when they’re dormant. This, again, means you should prune them back when the trees and berries aren’t producing.

Instead, they’re in their overwintering stage. This happens to be the best time to cut off the old because it makes room for the new blooms. Be sure to prune these plants in late winter or early spring.

4. Deadhead Plants

Deadhead plants are plants which require constant pruning. They’re certain flowering plants which will have blooms which dry up and die off.

Instead of lopping these dead blooms off, in most cases, you can pinch the dead flower off. This will make room for new blooms to appear which will keep your plants looking fresh. Some plants won’t have a second bloom, but it’s important to deadhead for the overall health of the plant.

5. Perennials

Perennial plants are a whole different ballgame. It’s important to study the variety you’ve planted because though many perennials come back year after year, they still need proper care.

At some point, a perennial will need to be cut all the way back. Most varieties will also need to be deadheaded and pruned periodically throughout their growing season.

Through research of the varieties you have planted, you should learn when the proper time is to cut the plant all the way back and when you should only remove the dead blooms from the plant for continued growth.

How to Prune Shrubs and Trees

How to prune a shrub

How to prune a shrub

Pruning different types of plants requires different methods. Here are the steps to correctly pruning shrubs and trees around your yard:

1. Remove What is Dead or Dying

If you see branches which are already dead or are in the process of dying, you should cut those branches off first.

Be sure to use a hand saw to remove thick branches. If the branches are thinner, you may be able to get away with using a sturdy pair of loppers. Be sure the tool can handle the job to protect the health of the tree or shrub.

2. Remove the Diseased

Next, look for anything diseased growing on the tree or shrub. If you find anything, be sure to cut below the infected area to ensure you eradicate it.

Also, keep in mind, you shouldn’t prune when wet because the moisture could help in spreading the disease around the plant.

3. Cut Branches Obstructing Pathways

If you have branches of a tree or shrub getting in the way of walking pathways or where you need to do regular yard maintenance, it’s a good idea to cut those branches away.

Not only will it make caring for your yard easier, but it will also ensure no one gets hurt walking through your yard.

4. Cut the Twist

After the dead, diseased, and annoying branches have been removed from your trees and shrubs, begin to look for branches which are twisted.

If you find any overlapping branches, be sure to cut the smallest ones away, only leaving the larger branch of the twist.

When you’ve done this, you’re ready for the final step of the pruning process of trees and shrubs.

5. Put Your Shrubs on a Diet

Finally, you should go through your shrubs and trees and look them over after you’ve cut away the excess.

From there, look for any clumps of branches which could obstruct proper airflow or stop the sunlight from coming through.

If you find any of those areas, cut branches away until you clear the obstruction. You want to make sure every inch of your shrub or tree gets the right amount of airflow and sunlight it needs to prosper.

How to Prune Flowers

How to prune flowers

How to prune flowers
Pruning flowers is much different (and easier) than pruning bushes or trees. In fact, you have only a few goals to reach to prune a flower properly. Here is what they are:

1. Cut Back

When you look at your flowers and begin noticing the plant seems dead in specific areas, it’s important to prune those areas away.

You should cut those areas back until you reach the point on the plant where you see new growth. This will encourage the plant to grow and produce more fresh blooms.

2. Deadhead When Necessary

Sometimes flowering plants don’t have a bunch of dead areas within them. Frequently the plant will have dead blooms taking place.

If you see dead blooms (and not dead stems too) pinch those blooms off. This is called deadheading.

But if the blooms are too stubborn to pinch off, use scissors or pruning shears to remove them.

3. Shape the Plant

Finally, shape your plant. The same way we need haircuts because we grow hairs which like to go in crazy directions, plants do the same.

In those cases, it’s important to trim away any misshapen places on the plant to keep it growing well and looking well-manicured.

Pruning Tips

How to prune a tree

How to prune a tree

Before leaving you, I want to give a few final pruning tips to help you when pruning your garden or landscaping. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Leave Evergreens Be

If you have evergreen trees in your yard, you’re in luck. These plants and trees don’t need anything from you.

In short, you don’t have to prune them. They’ll grow and take care of themselves. Unless a branch begins obstructing pathways, you should be good to go.

2. The Rule of Three

When pruning a tree, it’s important to remember to cut branches in three parts. First, you’ll need to cut enough away to help reduce the weight of the limb. This will ensure you don’t get knocked in the head when removing it.

Next, you’ll need to remove a little more to keep the branch from tearing the bark when it begins to pull away from the tree. The final cut should be done at the base of the branch to remove the limb in its entirety.

3. Flat Tops Aren’t Cool

If you’re pruning a tree, you might be tempted to cut the entire top out of the tree and let it regrow. This isn’t a good idea.

Not only does it make your tree look like it's been given a buzz cut, but it can cause the tree to produce spindly growth when it begins to grow back.

4. Angles are Best

While in the act of pruning, try to make your cuts at an angle. This is especially important when cutting thicker limbs.

Also, be sure to cut the limbs in the same direction they grow. This will ensure you don’t harm the tree in the pruning process.

5. Don’t Let Pruning Scare You

Some people are intimidated by pruning because they fear they’ll do it at the wrong time and cause harm to their plants.

Well, here’s the good news. You can’t mess up your plants by pruning too early, in most cases. If you do prune too early, the worst which usually comes from it is you have a decreased amount of fruit or new growth during the growing season.

However, be sure you don’t prune too late. This is the real danger because you could encourage new growth to happen late in the season. This would set it up to freeze during frost.

Now you are in the know when it comes to pruning your plants. This is a general overview of all plants. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of researching the specific needs of plants in your yard or garden, as the requirements may vary.

But I’d love to hear from you. What are some rules to pruning you follow and have served you well over the years? Do you have any pruning questions or concerns you’d like answered?

We love to hear from you. Leave us your thoughts in the space provided below.

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