When it comes to gardening and yard care, most people have heard of pruning. The process of removing superfluous branches and matter, pruning is sometimes shrouded in mystery. When are you supposed to prune? How do you prune? How do you know how much to remove? While the topiary gardens of England are evidence that pruning can literally be an art form, a few pointers can help the novice gardener care for their shrubs.
The simplest thing to remember when it comes to pruning is that it is always beneficial to a plant to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches or stems. Dead, decaying matter attracts insects and leaves the plant more susceptible to developing diseases. No matter what plant or variety, pruning off these visibly dead pieces will only benefit the plant.
Another place to begin with pruning is to remove any branches that cross, as well as any water sprouts or suckers, which are growths on the trunks, side branches, and from the ground. This is essentially an aesthetic approach, using visual cues to determine what needs to go in order to promote healthy growth.
Finally, any gardener or landscaper will stress the importance of clean tools. Particularly when removing dead and diseased branches, scrub tools and dip them in bleach to sterilize them. This helps to prevent spreading disease between different plants.
Tailor Pruning to the Plant
Beyond these basics, it is most helpful to identify exactly what plant you are pruning. This is because plants differ in their growth patterns, and what works for one type is detrimental for another. For example, many hydrangea varieties bloom on old wood. If you prune them in winter or early spring, you’ll remove the buds and prevent the plant from flowering. In contrast, it is best to prune forsythia in late spring, just after they bloom. Some plants are most encouraged to bloom and grow when the oldest shoots are cut all the way to the ground. A little knowledge of the plant you’re working with can go a long way in determining the best approach to take.
Choose the Right Tool
Using the right equipment for the job is a must. It’s important to understand that plants, when improperly cut, can go into shock. Having a well maintained trimmer and using the right tool for the right application will help minimize stress. Check out some of the different types of trimmers below
Choose the Right Time
Besides the general season in which you prune, it’s also important to take into consideration the recent weather patterns. Avoid pruning during drought and heat waves, as this creates unnecessary stress for the plants. Likewise, prune in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the newly cut ends of branches becoming scorched by the hot sun. Wait 48 hours after rain to prune, to allow plants to dry out and avoid fungal diseases.
When pruning, make cuts just above leaf nodes, or buds. This will encourage new growth, and in most cases, the plant will branch into two stems at the cut, creating a fuller, more bushy plant. Aim for a 45 degree angle on the cut, facing away from the bud, and use sharp shears or bypass hand pruners. Making a clean cut helps prevent disease and will heal more quickly.
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