EASY Tips for Pruning Your Plants

If you want…

your backyard to flourish with vibrant colors,

interesting textures and aromatic fragrances,

you will need to perform regular maintenance on it.

Pruning the trees, shrubs and plants in your yard is part of the necessary upkeep.

Greenery benefits greatly from pruning, but knowing when and what to cut can be confusing.

Although the schedules and techniques vary, you can follow some general guidelines for all your plants.

Choosing the Right Tools

Using the right tool makes a big difference in how healthy your plants remain after you trim them.

Smaller stems require careful cuts, so use a pair of handheld pruning shears for small or delicate plants.

Stems that are approximately an inch or two in diameter should be cut with a lopper.

Use a special pruning saw for trimming stalks and branches that are thicker than a couple inches around. 

Purchase quality tools that are sharp, durable and easy to handle.

Keep your tools clean by wiping them with rubbing alcohol after each plant is trimmed.

This will prevent any diseases from transferring between plants.

It’s also important to keep your tools sharp.

A sharp cut on any plant will heal more quickly than a jagged cut.

Sharp tools are also easier to work with and require less effort than dull blades.

Pruning in the Spring and Early Summer

Many plants need to be pruned in the springtime in order to grow properly.

Ornamental grasses should be trimmed close to the ground, while broad-leafed evergreens should be cut just enough to remove damaged foliage.

Trim semi-woody perennials to approximately four to eight inches.

Summer or fall flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas should be pruned during their dormant season.

Remove damaged stems as well as any growth at the plant base. 

Shrubs that flower in the spring need pruning soon after the blossoms fade.

Because these plants form their buds for the next season during the summertime, pruning too late in the year will destroy the buds.

You should remove the faded flowers to direct growth into the new buds.

To thin shrubs with multiple stems, remove the older stems every year.

For starting fresh with certain plants such as lilacs, cut the stems to four inches.

Pruning in the Fall and Winter

Most flowering annuals and perennials require pruning at the end of the growing season.

Once flowers fade, you can pull off the faded blossoms to promote healthy growth for the next year.

For non-woody plants such as tiger lilies, cut the stems down to the base of the plant when you prune.

It’s a good idea to mulch the area and prepare it for the next year’s growing season. 

Trees that produce fruit need special care.

You should prune these trees during their dormant seasons.

The amount you trim depends on how the plant bears the fruit.

Some varieties such as peach trees bear fruit on just the new shoots, while others produce fruit on all branches.

Remove dead or damaged branches, and prune away the small growths that extend from the base of the tree. 

Trimming Trees and Bushes

When pruning trees, trim as little as possible off younger saplings.

Remove any dead leaves, broken branches or decayed wood.

Find the central trunk and the branches that emerge from it.

These primary branches should not be cut unless necessary.

Some trees may need more in-depth trimming in order to survive.

If your tree is generally healthy, prune only the shoots that extend from the primary branches. 

To prune a bush or shrub, begin by taking off the sides first.

You can trim up to a third of the bush without damaging it.

After you clean up the sides, trim the top of the shrub.

Minimal pruning will promote growth and clean up the look of the bush.

If your bushes are taking over the garden, you can control the growth of new branches by trimming more aggressively. 

General Tips

Most plants have suckers growing at their bases.

These small shoots that extend from the roots should be removed.

Suckers develop quickly and steal energy from the plant.

Another method for cleaning up many plants is to remove entire stems rather than trimming the ends.

Shortening a stem increases the amount of branching out a plant does and won’t fix an overcrowding problem.

Certain varieties of plants need special care, so it’s a good idea to ask a professional for advice on how to trim finicky flowers, bushes or trees.

Cutting back a plant too soon or late into the season may result in less fruits or flowers.

Properly pruning the plants in your yard will keep them healthy and sturdy.

If you take the time to prep your plants for future growth, your yard and garden will thrive.