How to Prune Trees & Shrubs
Don’t let the idea of pruning your trees and shrubs scare you off. Pruning will not only improve the appearance of your plants, maintaining the silhouette you want, but it will also help to ensure continued healthy growth. And, with very few exceptions, a less-than-perfect pruning job will be just like a less-than-perfect haircut; it will grow back.
Two Preliminary Pointers
- Plan before you plant. If you want a loose, informal hedge effect, plant a shrub with a relaxed shape (think forsythia, weigela, or flowering almond). If you want a very stiff, formal look to your shrubbery, choose plants that naturally grow in a controlled, orderly shape like a pyramid or mound. Forcing a relaxed plant like forsythia into a stiff, sheared hedge can certainly be done, but we don’t think it showcases the beauty of the plant. So determine your desired effect- formal or informal – before you select your plants.
- Think ahead. Match your plant to its location. Of course, you wouldn’t plant sun-loving bushes in full shade and expect success. But consider other factors. Do you want a shrub with a potential height of fifteen or more feet placed directly in front of one your first-floor windows? Well… you can certainly keep it pruned to the height you need (please don’t let it obscure your view from inside or outside).. but, really, why not pick a plant in the first place that will grow only as tall as you need it to? Mother Nature can be fooled and manipulated, but it’s a lot easier to “go with the flow” instead.
Two Simple Categories: Before Blooming vs. After Blooming
- Most flowering shrubs fall into one of two groups: those that below on year-old wood, and those that bloom on new wood. The guide below will help you keep these straight until you learn the personalities and characteristics of the shrubs in your own landscape. (And remember, just a people develop cowlicks that need special attention, any shrub may grow an occasional ‘odd’ branch that just needs to come out of there, no matter what the time of year. If that happens, just cut it!)