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How to Prune Shrubs the Easy Way

January 8, 2009

Just because it is winter does not mean there is not work to be done.  Unless of course you are sitting in three feet of snow waiting to see your bird bath thaw out, then you may just want to focus on your indoor garden.

You still have time to prune your shrubs so there will be beautiful growth and shape in the spring.  ( It would be too late to prune anything that flowers or fruits unless you are not concerned with the blooms in the spring or the fruit yield this year)  Some pruning experts discuss a very complex process and you should be very careful when pruning but I disagree… to a point.

Formal Types of Pruning

  • Thinning this is when you cleared out all that dead wood, condensed branches or reduced the size of the shrub.
  • Heading Back taking off the tops of branches.  this one results in vigorous regrowth and can cause the plant to become very bushy.  This method can possibly deform a tree so be careful.  A shrub will survive.
  • Pinching this method focuses on the new growth before it becomes a full fledged stem.  This would be used on tomatoes or even shrubs.
  • Shearing an exceptionally popular method in my family.  This method reduces and shapes.  Grab an electric trimmer, cut through a few extension cords, and you end up with mounds of foliage and stems for a compost pile.  Who knew this method would work so great because the buds and branches are so close together.  The method is almost fail safe.

If there is a concern to how your flora flowers, such as a rose, or how your tree bears fruit or any other specialty greenery, then for sure follow special guidelines.  But if you are dealing with a general evergreen shrub such as English Laurel then prune to your hearts content.  I have sawed, lopped and sheared my way through many an evergreen and trees and they have always  returned more luscious than the last.

When to prune can make an important impact on your plant’s behavior.  Late winter or early spring, before the buds burst, is a great time to work your magic.  Just avoid spring blooming shrubs until after they flower.  Summer pruning suppresses growth for the most part.  Late summer or early fall pruning will cause vigorous regrowth so take your pick to fit your fancy.

Good Tools Make A Happy Gardener

Nothing makes pruning more fun and comfortable than sharp tools, such as Burgon & Ball’s bypass pruners,  that are well made and well designed.  Along with a form fitting pair of gloves you have a recipe for a weekend that your neighbors will envy.  So get out there, don your best weather proof attire, and get prune-a-luscious.

Has anyone had a pruning nightmare? Took a little too much off? Exposed a little extra?


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2009 6:20 am

    Good information. I can’t say I’ve had a pruning problem, but I did not prune my ‘Tardiva’ hydrangea for a few years and it got way too leggy, then I had to cut it back pretty severely. I really hurt me but its doing fine now.

  2. January 9, 2009 6:43 pm

    @Tina
    thanks for your comment. funny story about a hydrangea i had. I left it in the sun against the house too long and totally gave it a massive fry job. I mean all the leaves were browned and turned under. they fell off even. I planted it anyway and lo’ and behold it greened up the next season. It still has not grown to full potential after 2 years but we are getting there.

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