Master the Art of Pruning- Guide for Beginners

Pruning is nothing new. It is a common practice of seasoned gardeners to maintain strong steady growth in plants by stimulating the vigorous growth of new shoots. Pruning rejuvenates old or neglected shoots, enhances plant shape and flowering (in the case of flowering plants), but hang on a second. 

What the heck is pruning? And why is it important?  

Pruning is basically cutting or trimming away dead or new shoots of the plant to encourage healthy growth. Cutting back your plants can be quite alarming, for some people it can be a brutal act but fret not! Remember it’s necessary and your plant will definitely grow back healthier.  

Someone once rightly said, “Where there is pain, there is growth.”  

So, if you love gardening and want to see healthy, stable growth in your plants, you absolutely must help your plants thrive with helpful pruning. However improper pruning can weaken or deform your plants so make sure you prune your plants correctly and for a good reason. Pruning need not be puzzling, a little knowledge and the right tools can surely help you to get started.  

Now, before we list down some of the best ways to prune your plants, first, let’s quickly understand why, when, and how to prune. 

Why Prune? 

Michelle Carr/Stumpplants

Generally pruning is done to encourage the growth of lateral buds. The apex of each shoot ends into a bud called terminal bud, below which other lateral buds are placed in specific arrangements. The terminal bud shows solitary growth and forms the main bud on the shoot. The tip of this bud produces a chemical that halts the growth of other lower lateral buds. When pruning, a gardener essentially cuts off the terminal bud ceasing the production of this repressing chemical and stimulates lateral bud growth resulting in vigorous branching.  

Here are some good reasons to prune your plants, remember every cut made to a plant must have a valid purpose. 

  • Encourages lateral branching 
  • Avoids the spread of disease 
  • Controls size of the plant 
  • Makes management of crops easy 
  • Improves light and air circulation within the plant 
  • Improves the quality as well as quantity of flowers and fruits 

When to prune? 

Knowing when to prune is essential to get maximum benefits. Prune timings much depend on the type of plant, pruning objectives, and also the seasons. Usually, pruning should be done soon after seasonal growth is complete. Winter and late fall is often the best time to prune as most of the plants remain dormant in winter, pruning them leads to vigorous growth after dormancy. Plants are not pruned during fall as the cut takes a long time to heal and can be an easy target to spread and cause fungal infection. Flowering plants generally need to be prune after blooming for maximum display in the late winter or early spring to enhance flowering. Summer pruning tends to suppress the growth of both suckers and foliage. However, Light pruning and the removal of dead branches can be done at any time of the year.  

How to prune? 

Pruning plants to develop a strong and stable structure should be the most important objective of any grower. Cut off the outgrown, diseased or dead branches at a slight angle, leaving the lateral buds to grow and develop new branches to eliminate rubbing or poorly placed branches. Cut just 3-4 mm above an outward-facing bud so that the new growth will extend outward, making the plant bushier. Remove large limbs first starting from the top.  If two branches are competing or crossed, remove one of them entirely at its base to prevent any bark damage or disease. Cut only 10-20% of the plant. Do not over prune your plant as it can make it difficult to grow back. Wait for a few weeks to prune the plants again. Avoid pruning in the middle of the internode (the region between two nodes) such cut usually do not grow back and resulting in a futile attempt. 

Pruning Tips:  

  • Use clean and sharp pruning tools. 
  • Avoid pruning during wet conditions. 
  • Fertilize the plant after pruning in their growing season, during winter when the plants are dormant do not fertilize. 

Best ways to prune your plants 

There are a few awesome ways to prune your plants. 

Pinching: It is a handy method in which the terminal bud is pinched off stopping a stem from extending and encouraging bushy growth. It is usually performed at an early stage as it is easy for the plant to recover quickly without causing much damage to the plant.  

Shearing: It is generally done in landscaping to provide a particular aesthetic shape to the hedge plants. For this, use scissors or gardening shears.  You may also use electric hedge shears to closely trim leaves until the desired shape is achieved. Shearing stimulates buds to produce new branches, so you’ll be repeating the job regularly once you start. 

Thinning: This method involves the removal of the entire branch to its origin to reduce over-crowding or for better light penetration into the branches. Use hand-held pruners, loopers, or pruning saw stage to make thinning cuts depending on the thickness of the branch being cut.  

Heading: This method refers to cutting out-grown branches or stems but doesn’t remove it entirely. It should be done only to remove overgrown or damaged stems and should not be used for regular maintenance. Use hand pruners to remove a portion of the branch. 

That’s really all there is to it! If you have any questions, please leave us a comment, and we’ll do our best to help you. 

Happy growing! 

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