Our top tree and bush pruning tips will help you have a yard full of healthy trees and bushes.
If you’ve gone to the trouble of choosing the best yard trees and bushes for your yard, you want to take good care of them. Part of that care is proper pruning. So, if you’re wise, you’re asking, “What are the best tips for pruning a tree or a bush?”
Here are 10 tree pruning and bush pruning tips that will teach you how to prune shrubs and bushes and trees.
- Know Why You’re Pruning
Before you learn how to prune a bush or a tree, it helps to understand why pruning is a good idea.
Obviously, just as all trees and bushes need sunlight, they need some judicious care. Pruning cares for your trees and bushes in two ways:
* Pruning keeps plants healthy. When you remove branches that are pest-infested, diseased, dead, or rubbing against each other, you promote the health of the tree.
* Pruning encourages the production of more flowers or fruit. Pruning dead blooms and small offshoots direct nutrients to the areas of the tree of bush that can produce more flowers or fruit.
Also, pruning contributes to the beauty and enjoyment of your yard in three ways:
* Pruning controls the growth rate of your trees and bushes. When you prune your trees or bushes, you can manage their size and shape, which gives you control over the look and feel of your outdoor space.
* Pruning keeps your outdoor space safe. When you remove low branches or broken branches, you can prevent potential injuries.
* Pruning can turn your trees and bushes into a creative canvas. You can prune trees or bushes into fun shapes to enhance the style of your yard.
- Know When to Prune
A vital aspect of knowing how to prune shrubs or trees is knowing when to prune bushes and trees.
Many people new to caring for trees and bushes ask, “Can you prune trees in the spring?” Yes, not only can you prune trees in spring, ideally, you should prune them in the spring.
Here are some basic timing guidelines:
* Prune shrubs and trees that flower in the spring right after the flowers start to brown or fade.
* Prune shrubs and trees that bloom in the summer right before new growth starts to come out, which will be either in very late winter or early spring.
* Prune deciduous trees and shrubs right before they come out of dormancy, which again, will be in the very late winter or early spring.
* If you want to thin a bush or tree, you can do a bit of that in late summer. But don’t do any summer pruning if you live in an area that has harsh winters. Early frosts can damage those new cuts.
- Cut off Tips to Fill in a Bush
If you want a bush or tree to be fuller, cut off branch tips about a quarter-inch beyond a bud. This pruning technique is called “heading off.” It directs the growth energy away from the tops of the branches, sending it instead into side branches. This will help fill in the plant’s foliage.
- Remove the 4Ds
Arborists recommend removing four types of branches when pruning: dead branches, damaged branches (broken or split), diseased branches, and “deranged” branches. Dead, damaged, and diseased branches are pretty easy to spot. Deranged branches are a little tougher to identify. These branches are the ones that are, well, just a little wonky. They are branches that are looping downward, poking out at odd angles, or growing at cross-angles to nearby branches so closely that they are rubbing against another branch.
- Remove a Third of a Bush’s Canes
A cane-type bush is a bush that sends up new canes from the roots every year. Hydrangeas and forsythias are examples of this type of bush. To control the spread of these bushes, prune away a third of these cases each year. If you want to get a handle on the bush’s height, prune the largest and oldest canes. If you want to prevent too much spread, prune out some of the newer, interior canes.
- Don’t Over-Prune Evergreens
Evergreens, unlike the cane-type bushes discussed in Tip 5, grow from existing stems. Because of this, they end up with a more set framework and therefore don’t need as much pruning. You only need to remove dead branches and do a tiny bit of shaping. Over-pruning an evergreen can stunt and distort its growth. Most conifers only need pruning in their first two or three years to get a basic shape going. After that, they like to be left alone.
- Cut Branches at the Collar
When you cut a branch, you need to cut it at the collar. This is the little wrinkle that’s just above the spot where the branch comes out of the main trunk. This collar is the swell of bark that encircles the branch. If you cut just in front of it, the bark will grow over and cover the wound. If you cut too far out from the collar, you’ll leave a stub that won’t heal and may become diseases.
- Don’t Try to Make Huge Shrubs Small
You can’t force a huge bush into being a small one by pruning it. If your bush is more than double the size you want it to be, remove the bush and get a new one. Trying to cut a bush back to half its size or more will result in a mangled-looking bush.
- Cut at Lateral Buds or Branches
When you want to shorten a small branch, make your pruning cut at a lateral bud or another lateral branch. (Lateral buds and branches are the ones that grow at the sides of a shoot or branch, leading to lateral growth.) Make your cut at a slight angle about a quarter-inch beyond the bud or branch. Be sure you use sharp hand shears for this job because you want the cut to be clean.
- Take Three Cuts to Remove Large Branches
When you’re cutting out large branches, it’s best to use a pruning saw because the healthiest way to remove a large branch is with three cuts. Pruning a large branch in this way prevents bark damage.
First, make a cut on the underside of the branch about 1 foot from the branch collar. (Remember that swell of bark mentioned in Tip 7?) You want to make this cut on the underside of the branch. Cut about a third of the way through the branch and stop. (If the underside cut is awkward, you can stop at about a quarter of the way in.)
About an inch further along the branch from the first cut, make another cut from the top of the branch. Saw until the branch splits off.
Now make your final cut just outside the branch collar. Saw straight down through the branch at this spot (also called the branch bark ridge).
Now that you know how to prune a tree or a bush, you can discover more landscape tips to maintain a beautiful yard. You want all of your outdoor space to look good and pruning your trees and bushes will help make that happen.
Author: Rachel Friedberg