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Guide To Pruning Trees And Shrubs


If you are quite the ardent gardener and have many trees and shrubs in your backyard, you would probably be familiar with pruning. Even if you are exploring the prospect of gardening, you might have come across the word’ pruning.’ We believe that pruning is one thing you can do for yourself and your plants. But it is pretty sad that most people who have trees and shrubs in their yard neglect this vital task of pruning. 

Most people seem to think pruning is a ‘black art.’ They believe that you have high risks of butchery without worthwhile rewards. Yet, according to experts, pruning is a gratifying thing because your yard will start to be lusher and greener in appearance. You would also get healthier plants and more flowers from them. Pruning has many more benefits too. 

What Is Pruning?

Firstly, let us understand pruning in detail. Pruning removes parts of a plant or tree, such as the stems, branches, and followers. Pruning is not done just for the sake of visual appeal, that is, to give a particular shape or style to your plants. Pruning helps in managing the steady growth of trees and shrubs and also their structure. It also encourages the development of fruits, flowers, and more foliage. When it comes to woody plants such as trees and even some shrubs, pruning is a great thing you could do to keep your trees and shrubs growing steadily and keeping them healthy.

Pruning is a skill, or let’s say an art, that you learn over time with practice. We completely understand if you are afraid to do it the first time but don’t be scared to experiment. As they say, you learn from your mistakes, so don’t be scared to try! Moreover, nobody said you would have to do it without any help; you could quickly look up articles on the web such as this one or refer to a good book. You could even get information on how to prune specific plants from your local county extension office. When you have the correct information about a plant, its purpose, and its blooming periods, you can do the pruning job well.

What Should You Prune?

The basic rule of thumb when you are pruning is that less is always more. Please think before pruning any branch. It would help if you were thinking about the cut you are planning to make before you cut. We know it’s pretty easy to cut a branch than to try to reattach it!

  1. Diseased, Dying, Dead Or Broken Branches: 

    You should prune all kinds of branches that are diseased, dying, dead, or broken. You could remove such branches at any time of the year, and the sooner you remove them, the better it would be. 

  2. Shrubs And Young Trees:

    If you have young woodier plants in your yard or garden, you should prune them in such a way that would encourage them to produce a more open and balanced structure of branches or stems. It would help if you also were on the lookout for any inward-growing or crossed branches. It would be best to get rid of them when they are easier to reach before they get lost in the foliage.You must remove rubbing and crossing branches as well, along with such branches that grow at a thirty-degree angle to the trunk. These branches are not joined firmly and may break during storms, thus dirtying your yard. It would help if you cut small twigs to the height of a bud to facilitate more branching. Cut back branches that are growing too close to the ground once they are at least an inch wide. Before these branches have a width of an inch, you could leave them to help maintain a sturdier trunk and help develop better roots. When these branches are about an inch in diameter, you should remove them and not leave any stubs.

  1. Old Trees Or Shrubs:

    As mentioned before, older shrubs and trees benefit the most when you prune them. That is because pruning encourages these plants to grow newer foliage and helps them to grow more vigorously. Pruning will also aid them in developing healthier fruits or flowers. Shrubs that have multiple stems, such as lilac, forsythia, and viburnum, require harder pruning. You can remove a third of the older branches without any concern as it will promote more growth.

How To Prune Trees And Shrubs?- Steps

  1. Firstly, you have to decide on what shape you want your plant to be. Generally, people go for the goblet or wine glass for trees and any symmetrical shapes when pruning shrubs. It would help if you pruned along the natural form or outline that the plants have. Strive for a balanced structure that won’t hinder the plant’s space. Start by removing branches one by one. It would help if you also stepped back after making every cut to inspect whether you are moving according to plan. If you plan to remove a whole branch, you should cut right along the branch collar, where the branch and the trunk join.
  2. If you shorten any branch, you should cut it where a healthy bud, pair of buds, or side shoot is growing. That would facilitate growth from the buds beside the branch that you cut. There must be a minimum gap of half a centimeter between where you are making the cut and where the bud is. Cutting closer than that would damage the bud. If you cut at a gap more significant than that, you risk the branch rotting, and that may cause infection in the plant.
  3. If there is an outfacing bud, you must aim to prune back to that. If you prune back to an inward-growing branch, all the newer branches would grow inwards towards the tree trunk and give a tangled and messy appearance. Cut along an angle of 45 degrees so that moisture doesn’t collect at the wounds. 


Pruning, as you know, would aid in the growth of the plant and help it maintain structure while also preventing diseases and infections in plants. The best time to prune is the late dormant season. Now that you know everything you need to know about pruning, it is time to get to work and make your garden/yard look spectacular!