Proper pruning is key to healthy trees and shrubs. Understanding how to prune means knowing what, when, and how to go about it. Regular pruning helps keep trees, shrubs, and vines healthy. Firstly, by stopping some problems, and secondly by preventing other problems. In general, pruning encourages new growth and vigor. That’s because, when you remove some branches, more light and air reach more areas of the plant. Read our pruning guide below to learn the basics every homeowner should know.
Firstly, why prune at all? Shouldn’t you just let nature take its course? For landscapes near homes, people and property, letting trees and shrubs go 100% wild might not be the best idea. There are four big reasons for this.
First, pruning is necessary when limbs create a safety issue. For instance, when they overhang a house or are tangled in overhead wires. The first lesson in how to prune, is knowing what jobs are suitable for DIY. These situations are not. When it comes to limbs in wires or over homes, professional tree pruning is required.
2. Enhance a Plant’s Beauty
Next, pruning helps increase a plant’s beauty or productiveness. For instance, to encourage increased fruiting or blossom on roses, raspberries, or apples. Likewise, pruning might show off the ornamental features of a plant, such as the bark of river birch or paperbark maple. Similarly, pruning encourages new growth of colorful stems such as red stem dogwood.
3. Control Size & Shape
Clearly, pruning can help control the size and shape of a plant. Perhaps you have large shrub planted a little close to your house or a very aggressive vine. Either way, regular pruning can ensure your plants stay at an appropriate size. Similarly, you can control a plant’s shape. From very formal boxwood to informal viburnum hedges, how you prune helps define the style of our landscape.
4. Plant Health
Lastly, pruning helps maintain the health of your trees and shrubs. Planting trees is one of the best investments you can make in your home’s value. Of course, you want to protect your investment. Pruning helps you do just that. On one hand, regular pruning removes dead and damaged parts of a plant. This prevents insect pests taking up residence. It also allows your plant to put its energy into healthy limbs rather than trying to repair broken ones. On the other hand, when you prune you are ‘checking in’ with your plant. By putting your attention on your tree or shrub, you are more likely to catch disease or insect problems early, when they are easier to treat.
How to Prune: Basics
The reasons for pruning are the same for any plant: remove damaged, diseased, or dead parts. When left on a plant, these parts invite pests and disease. So, here’s how to prune.
How to Prune: Safety
First of all, take proper precautions to avoid injury. This includes choosing the right equipment and clothing:
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, safety glasses, and nonskid shoes. A brimmed hat or sunglasses will keep the sun from obscuring your vision.
- Take good care of your tools. Keep them sharp and clean, and – ideally – store sharp tools in a protective sheath. Carry pruning tools with the points facing down.
- Choose a clear, still, dry day for pruning.
- Do not prune from a ladder! However, in the event that you don’t heed this advice, tie the ladder securely to the tree. Keep one hand on the ladder and one hand on your pruning saw. Ask someone to help hold the ladder from the ground.
Now that you know the ground rules let’s look at how to prune.
How to Prune: Tools and Cutting
Next, pruning requires clean, sharp tools. Also, you need the right-size tool for the branches you’re pruning. This will avoid damage to the plant and the tool. For example, use a pruning saw on branches larger than 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. Whereas, pruning shears work best on the smallest branches. While loppers work for branches an inch or so in diameter.
Good pruning means good cutting. Here’s how to cut well. First, place the thinner, upper cutting blade closer to the trunk or main stem. Then, make a clean cut without tearing the bark. Avoid leaving a stub, which is both unsightly and provides an entry point for pests and diseases. You want to cut just outside the branch collar, or the swelling where the branch begins.
How to Prune: When to Prune
Finally, when should you prune? There is no one answer to this question. Different plants have different needs. However, late winter is an ideal time for pruning many trees and shrubs because they are dormant. Dormant plants are not actively growing and ‘won’t mind’ being pruned. Indeed, late-winter pruning promotes fast regrowth in spring. Though, you should be aware of some exceptions.
For instance, oaks, crabapples,
Summer is a great time to remove dead branches when they stand out. Trees and shrubs that bloom during summer and into fall are best pruned in later winter or early spring as soon as their annual growth begins. Avoid fall pruning because it stimulates new growth that can be killed by winter cold. Finally, prune anytime: suckers; water sprouts; branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged.
Ready to get started? Check out the University of Minnesota Extension for a more comprehensive guide on when to prune different trees and shrubs.
Tree Pruning in Webster NY
Thanks for reading! If you have trees or limbs that need professional work, our Webster arborist is the person to call. We’ve offered Webster tree services since 1985! Our staff includes qualified arborists who know how to safely deal with your trees. Contact us today!