From the Desk of Ed Hume: Pruning Hints, Ideas, and Timing

January 9, 2012 at 10:35 AM Leave a comment

Pruning!  “OH NO!”  How, what, where, and when do I do it?  YES, pruning is unquestionably one of the home gardener’s biggest challenges.  So what can anyone say to make it easier?  Darned if I know, but I’ll try!

First and foremost, never ever prune for the sake of pruning.  Only prune those trees and shrubs that need pruning.

Many, maybe even I, can say most plants can go a lifetime without being pruned.  All one has to do is look at the trees and native shrubs in a nearby forest, and other then wind, fire, or animals, who pruned and shaped those plants?  Nobody!  Yet look at how beautifully shaped they are!

Indiscriminate pruning can ruin a plant’s shape and, to a degree, the health of the plant.  Remember pruning stimulates growth, so the more growth one cuts off a plant the more growth you are apt to stimulate.  Case in point: look at old fruit trees that have been severely pruned!  The trees are absolutely covered with long leggy suckers or water sprouts.  These new growths are sometimes 6 to 10 feet long.  The trees have lost their shape, look ugly, and fruit production is usually considerably reduced.  Has anything been gained by pruning?

If you are pruning for the first time, take a few minutes to read a bit about pruning, or view a pruning video.  I’d suggest you go to the library and checkout a book on pruning.  Make certain it has a lot of photographs that show step-by-step pruning procedures.  Or maybe it would be a good idea to hire a professional arborist to do your pruning, and watch and learn from him/her.


1) Start by removing all dead, decayed, and severely broken branches.

2) Head back any branches that have grown too long or are misshapen in some way.

3) Make all pruning cuts just above an outside bud.  This encourages new growth to develop outward, opening up the tree or shrub and helping to create a bushier growth habit.

4) Prune at the correct time of the year.  For example, most flowering plants are pruned after they have finished flowering.  Here is the rule I use: if the plant flowers before the end of June, prune it immediately after flowering.  Any plant that flowers after June should be pruned during the winter or in earliest spring, before the new growth begins.  Now you must know, some plants are best pruned when they are dormant, while others should not be pruned until earliest spring.  That’s where a pruning book can really be helpful.

5) If you are pruning a large tree or shrub, you need two people to do the pruning.  One on a ladder (the pruning person), the other on the ground, circling the plant and advising the person on the ladder as to which branches need pruning and where to cut them.  My suggestion is that those two people should never be a husband and wife.

I hope these tips can help you in your pruning adventures.  Best of luck, and we’ll see you here Wednesday with a podcast!




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