Proper Pruning

Proper pruning maintains landscapes and saves plants from an early demise.  Use pruning to:

  • Promote healthy growth, fruit or flowers;
  • Maintain shape and size;
  • Prevent overcrowding; and
  • Remove damaged areas.

Most pruning tasks only require hand pruners, lopping shears, pruning saws, or hedge shears.  Much to the disappointment of men all over the world, chainsaws are not usually required, but can add extra excitement and an element of danger to the whole pruning process.  If it gets them out and working in the yard, let them get a chainsaw – just make sure all insurance premiums are paid up.

For many overzealous landscapers, pruning means shearing straight across to reduce size.  That’s how NOT to prune.  The techniques depend on the reason for pruning.


Thin plants, bushes and trees instead of shearing by cutting selected branches back to a lateral branch, a lateral bud or the main trunk to encourage new growth, reduce size and produce a fuller, more attractive plant.

When you remove the terminal bud (the bud at the end of a branch or twig) by pruning, lateral buds and shoots below the pruning cut grow vigorously. The most vigorous new growth always occurs within 6 to 8 inches of the pruning cut and this keeps tall, leggy plants, shrubs and trees from getting too tall and leggy and become more compact and dense.


If a shrub or plant has become completely out of control, a renewal pruning may be in order, which means cutting it back to within 1 foot of ground level.  Just keep in mind that when pruning plants close to ground level, it may take years to regrow.This is where the chainsaw can come into play, as technique is not important, but timing is. 

Prune before new spring growth begins, usually February until late March.  Since pruning stimulates growth, you don’t want to do this in the fall, as the new growth will be damaged by winter weather.

Renewal pruning will bring about new growth, and to encourage denser plants, prune the tips of new shoots when they are 6 to 12 inches long.


To shape a shrub to take on more of a tree shape, pruning should be done in early Spring by selecting one to three of the most vigorous growing branches and cutting back all other branches to ground level. Remove lateral branches that are fewer than 4 feet off the ground along the main trunk and thin the upper portion, the canopy, by getting rid of inward growing branches or branches that cross one another.

Pruning is essential to maintain landscaping, keeping up with it is easy, going back to prune overgrown trees and shrubs can be an all day affair and involve the chainsaw, so keep on top of pruning and save yourself time, limbs and plants, shrubs and trees.