Pruning 101: When, How, and Why Even Bother?

by Jess ViceMarch 29, 2018

While there is some charm to a wildflower garden, most of us would prefer that the bushes, trees, and plantings around our house rein it in a bit. Not only does pruning help with curb appeal, but it’s healthy for the plants around your home. And for some of us, it scratches that itch to keep everything neat and tidy.

Start Small


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Flowering plants are easy to maintain. There are a couple techniques you can try throughout the year to keep bushes with blooms bright and thriving:

  • Dead-heading: Pinching off the dead or dying flowers near where they meet the stem of the plant helps the plant focus its energy and resources on the flowers that are still in full bloom or the buds just coming out.
  • Perennials (come back every year, like roses and fruit bushes): Deadhead throughout the season, and as you see bare stems, old stems, or too-tall growth, trim them back to encourage branching. Perennials can be trimmed back heavily in order to help them regrow the following year. Just be sure to do a little research on which types of perennials you have and when the best time is to trim them back.
  • Annuals (only live for the year you planted them, like pansies or marigolds): Deadhead through the growing season, and trim the rangy or too-long branches back.

All Around the Mulberry Bush


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Medium to large bushes and small trees get a little more complex. They don’t often have flowers to remove, and can be particular about how branches are trimmed.

  • Bushes: Avoid hedge trimmers and “boxing” the bushes into shape. Instead, select the longest branches that are disturbing the shape of the bush, reach into the foliage, and trim individual branches as close to the heart of the bush as possible. This helps the bush grow thick and dense, rather than scraggly. And you can still control what shape you want it to take.
  • Large bushes or hedges: While electric or power hedge trimmers seem like a good idea here, most aren’t sharp enough to cleanly cut branch ends. And messy or broken branch ends open the plant up to disease. Instead, try long-handled loppers and hedge shears to help shape the hedge into an orderly row.

Trees Are Our Friends


Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

When pruning a tree, you want to first look at how it holds its weight. Are there more branches on one side than the other? Does the tree lean? Where are the branches clustered? Which way could it fall that would cause damage to your property? Remove branches that will help balance the tree’s weight against the angle of its trunk.

Then look at dead branches. Pine trees, for instance, keep their dead limbs close and under the living foliage. The best way to trim them is from close to the trunk, and by cutting them as close to the trunk as possible. Even though trees produce sap to help heal wounds in their trunks, sap attracts insects and even disease. Help protect your trees by learning how to prune them well – wound caps and sealing sprays aren’t always the best way to help trees recover from a thorough prune.

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About The Author
Jess Vice
Jess is a user experience strategist by day and a writer by night. Jess loves making a space feel unique and welcoming through DIY renovations, cooking Southern soul food, and hosting dance parties. She and her Schnoodle Puck spend most of their free time playing in the great outdoors in Utah.