The Art of Creative Pruning: Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs

Many varieties of trees, shrubs, and bushes can grow so much that they become too bushy and out-of-control. Excess limbs and foliage can weigh down the tree or bush and take away from its beauty. You want the plants in your yard to be pleasing to the eye, as well as healthy, therefore they need a little TLC from time to time. Periodically pruning your trees and shrubs will help them to maintain their shape, will give you more blooms, and keep them growing strong for years. The secret to creative pruning is to know when to prune, how to prune, and how much to remove.

Creative Pruning - Trees and Shrubs

While it is fine to remove dead and broken branches from your trees and shrubs any time of the year, you need to carefully plan when you do your prune. But if you prune branches at the wrong time, you risk removing the buds and potentially damaging the shrub. It is best to do your pruning and thinning when the plant is in its dormancy and hasn’t yet set its buds. If the bush flowers in the spring like a forsythia, you can prune them right after they are done flowering for the season. But trees and bushes that flower in the summer should be pruned in the late winter or early spring.

Before you start pruning, familiarize yourself with the plants branches and observe the nodes from which the branches grow. Make your cuts just above the nodes so that you do not weaken the plant. Your goal is to thin out the bush and remove older branches that will be less productive. Remove each branch individually using sharp pruning clippers and try to avoid bending and snapping the branches. This causes stress to the plant.

The biggest question with pruning is how much to take off. If you are too conservative with your pruning, it will not help the plant become healthier and produce more blooms. If you are too aggressive, however, you could hurt the plant. Experienced gardeners and landscapers follow the rule of one-third when pruning. According to this rule, one should only remove one-third of the healthy growth while pruning. Any more than that will stress the plant. Before you begin pruning, size up you shrub or tree and eyeball how much one-third of the plant would be so you don’t get over-zealous once you start cutting.

Pruning not only helps the plant to produce more blooms, but it trains the plant to maintain its shape and position. By trimming stray shoots, you are sending a signal to the plant regarding boundaries. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes the plant learns that certain branches will be cut so it doesn’t grow them in that direction anymore. It is also possible to train a bush to grown up a wall by pruning off the branches that don’t comply.

Pruning is a necessary part of maintaining your landscaping. You may be nervous about hurting your trees or shrubs, but your plants will thank you for the occasional trim by giving you more flowers.