Pruning Methods

Simple Steps to Successful Pruning

As a landscape and interior plantscape designer, one of the tasks that I had to commonly perform was making sure that the plants that I installed were properly maintained. Even as a nurseryman this was one of my responsibilities. So I  did the basic stuff like watering, fertilizing, insect control, and of course pruning.

“To prune or not to prune?”

Pruning is important to a plant’s life because by pruning you can actually add years to your plant. Pruning can take your plant through a period of rejuvenation. In other words, because of pruning, your plant can go through a rest period causing your plant to become more healthy.

Different reasons for pruning

Now there are different reasons for pruning. One may prune because of wanting more and better quality flowers or it may be that you want a fuller plant.

Another person may prune for security purposes eg. a tree branch may be blocking outside view. Pruning may also be done to control a plant’s height. You may want a plant to stay at a certain height and in order for that to happen, you would need to put your plant on a pruning program.

Pruning is sometimes done to control the direction in which a plant grows, whereas pruning can also be done for health purposes (a part of the plant may be infected and has to be removed before the disease spreads to the healthy part of the plant putting the plant life at risk).

Damaged wood is another reason for pruning or it could be that you want a tree or a plant to retain or grow into a different form or to maintain its natural shape.

So we see that there are numerous reasons for pruning.

Damage can be done however when attempts are made to prune a plant or a tree with little or no knowledge at all.

Your intentions may be good but good intentions alone can not do. You must have some knowledge of pruning in order to get the job done the right way.

Word of Caution

Don’t take on pruning jobs that are too big for you and may become hazardous. Call in the trained experts in cases where tree branches are caught up or growing into electrical lines, do not attempt to remove them because this can also become life-threatening and can cause severe injury and even death. Leave it to the experts, those who are well trained and properly equipped to take on the task.

Pruning methods

More reasons to prune

There are quite a bit more reasons for pruning. You can prune to beautify the plant/tree eg. pruning your plants into different shapes such as Balls, Circles, Squares, rectangles, triangles, topiaries in the forms of animals and other shapes.

These are just a few of the creative ideas you can perform with plants.

Just get those creative juices flowing and let your imagination run wild. I know of course this takes time and practice.

When to prune trees

Pruning trees can be done at any time of the year. Light pruning is preferred only under certain conditions heavier pruning can be considered, eg. Taking safety measures before a hurricane, it is advisable to get as much extra help as possible.

Business establishments should have a yearly pruning schedule for security reason large dense branches near a parking lot could become a spot for vandalism. So when you prune or should I say before you prune know why you want to prune.

There are two categories into which trees fall under

Evergreen trees

Evergreen trees are simply, trees that keep their leaves year-round. Before pruning these trees know what you want. Unless you have some knowledge or training when it comes to pruning it may be a bit of a challenge to know what to selectively prune. But the task can still be carried out with fair results if you at least have an idea, or better yet call in the experts. It may cause you a few bucks in order to get the job done but the point is, it will get done.

Deciduous trees

Secondly, you have deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the winter or dry season, then when spring comes around, new leaves begin to emerge again.

Pruning deciduous trees can be easy to perform. If there is no urgency, wait until the tree loses all of its leaves. That way you will have a more clear picture of what to prune.

Flowering plants

Garden plants-pruning-methods
Garden flowers

When it comes to pruning flowering plants the ideal thing to do is to wait until the bloom period has passed or until the plants enter the dormant season before removing any part of the top growth. Because by removing the top growth

you will remove some of the flowers and the flower buds. If you must prune, prune very lightly be selective with it.

Variegated plants

When pruning variegated (colorful leaves) plants, try to prune in such a way as to not take too much of the beauty of the plants even though the color of the plant is in the leaves themselves.

Pruning Techniques

Heading back ornamental plants

To perform these techniques you must selectively prune terminal ends or twigs or young branches back to an auxiliary bud or node. If you have one node on the stem, cut at about a 45- degree angle above the node to allow the sap to drain from the wound or new cut causing the wound to heal much faster. If nodes are on both sides of the stem then you would make a straight cut across but right above the nodes.

Cut as close as possible above the nodes and not through the nodes. If you leave a long stem where you made the cut above the node, the wound will take longer to heal and disease and insect may take over.

Pruning methods

Heading back trees

Heading back trees may not be needed if the trees were properly placed at the inception of the landscape project. But if you must perform this method, caution should be taken and no more than a third of the top growth should be removed.


Holly plant-pruning-methods
Holly plant

Thinning out trees can be very beneficial because in the event there is a hurricane or strong breeze, damage to the tree or personal property may be minimal. Because strong winds will be able to pass through the tree more easily.

Thinning out can also encourage new growth within the crown, and in cases of security measures, it can keep persons from hiding from public view who may have intentions to rob or cause some bodily harm.

Pruning Shrubs

When pruning shrubs remove all of the dead and diseased wood first. Also, remove branches that cross or touch each other.

Shrubs grow so dense that it is a common thing to have some parts of the plant in the middle and more towards the bottom turning brown because of sunlight not being able to reach the lower branches. Thinning out the center of the shrub will allow sunlight to penetrate to the lower branches.

When pruning shrubs you want to make sure that the plants maintain their natural form unless you are trying to create the desired shape. When pruning it should never be seen where you made the cut. The cut should be made inside the plant, where other leaves can hide it.

Pruning Hedges

It’s so amazing how a beautifully cut hedge can transform a landscape or garden view giving it such a touch of class. In the area of pruning, there is informal pruning where you prune the hedge to keep its natural shape and you have formal where you cut the hedge in a unique way, which means that you may have to spend more time through the plants growing season to make sure that the shrubs maintain their unique shape.

I have seen hedges where the base of the plants was narrow while the top of the hedge was wide. And in many cases, I have seen where this method works even though it is not a good practice because what can happen is that because the base is narrow and the top is wide, the top can become too heavy for the base to support and in heavy winds, the plant can actually topple over or break. Also because the top is wider than the base, sunlight cannot get down to the base of the plant and what will eventually happen is you will have the leaves at the base dying out. Soon you will have a shrub with a lot of head and no leaves at the base. It can look pretty ugly.

Pruning Tools

Hand pruner

Hand pruners are used to cut branches less than 1/4″


Loppers are used to cut  thicker branches, branches that are 1/2″ in diameter

Pruning saw

This tool can cut branches up to 4″.

Hedge shears

Used to trim formal and informal hedges.


Chainsaws are used to cut large tree branches.

The final word

There is more than can be said on pruning that is beyond the scope of this article, but we will look more closely at pruning techniques in our next upcoming article.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

6 thoughts on “Pruning Methods”

  1. Hello there
    l have really enjoyed your article on pruning and why pruning is important.
    l like the lovely images of the pruned animals.
    l did not know there are so many different pruning gadgets out there, or to be exact, i did not know you need special gadgets, l thought pruning was done with ordinary scissors.but l now see there are chainsaws, hedge shears, pruning saws and loppers.
    Got to your site because im in my new home and was looking for ways to decorate in general and fences are a part of decoration.
    Thanks i learned quite alot.

    • Hello roamy and thank you for those very kind remarks, I am glad that I could be off help to you. Have a wonderful day, look me up and give me a shout if you ever need my help.

  2. Interesting. Apparently, pruning has aesthetic as well as salubrious qualities.
    Excellent word of caution regarding electrical lines. This is very important.
    Those pictures of shapes, animals, etc., are awesome. Did you prune those yourself?
    I really like the evergreens, however, I can see how they would require more maintenance and be more difficult to manage. Pruning takes a skilled hand and a very gently skilled hand for flowers. I didn’t realize the complexity and precision that pruning demands until I read this article.
    Thanks for the very informative article. I feel that I have been well educated.

    • Good day and thank you for those very kind and encouraging words that means a lot to me, I am really glad that I was able to help. The pictures of those animals that you see here are pictures that I burrowed from and expert in the field, glad that you like the photos and glad that I could of help. Thanks again and have a good day.

  3. Very thorough write up about pruning and all of the benefits of doing so. I was not aware that pruning could actually extend the life of vegetation but that does make sense. Topiaries are really cool. I always love looking at them when we’re in Orlando. And I’m amazed at the skill it takes to carve them into such realistic looking shapes.

    • Hello Mike, and yes pruning can do such great wonders to plants, their are just so many benefits to pruning. Glad that you liked this article all the best to you and please to tell others about my website, it is Thanks again and have a great day.


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