Methods of Pruning Plants

13 Apr 2015
If you play an important part in the development of your landscape then you know about pruning. But are you pruning for the right reasons? or Using the right pruning tools?
pruning shears next to cut branch

If you upkeep your garden, then you may be familiar with pruning, as it is a regular part of plant maintenance. Pruning involves the selective removal of specific plant parts and if not done correctly can result in over pruning. Over pruning is the plant equivalent of a bad haircut, and is a common problem faced by the DIY gardener.  To avoid over pruning, you should ask yourself two questions, the first, “Why am I pruning?”. 

Why am I pruning?

There are several reasons why you could prune and mind you, none of them are “My plants look so happy, they deserve a pruning”. Here are five valid reasons for plant pruning.

  1. To improve the look and health of a plant: You can prune your plants to improve their look. This is achieved by trimming them into beautiful shapes. This may require a professional touch or a lot of practice, as not everyone is particularly skilled and artistic enough to create a landscape masterpiece. Pruning plants to improve health is done by quickly removing diseased, damaged or dead plant parts. This speeds the formation of protective tissue and sometimes limit the spread of insects and disease.
  2. To control the growth of a plant: Pruning  can be done to reduce the size of a plant, just so that it remains in better proportion with the rest of your landscape. In this case you don’t necessarily shape the plant but just keep it in level with all the other plants in your landscape.
  3. To prevent potential damage: When dead or hazardous low limbs become a threat, hanging over utility lines etc. then it is time to prune, as this can be very dangerous. You can also prune shrubs back from walkways and other high traffic areas to avoid tripping and falling.
  4. To train young plants:  Pruning can be used as a form of plant  training. You can train main scaffold branches to produce stronger trees.  Also, it is much easier to shape branches with hand pruners when plants are very young rather than when plants get older and their branches are larger. The pruning of young plants, as a form of training them is very popular in the bonsai plant.
  5. To encourage flowering and fruiting: The pruning of flower buds encourages early vegetative growth. It is also possible to use selective pruning to stimulate flowering in some plant types and to produce larger fruits in others. 

The second is “What pruning tools do I need?”. There are many pruning tools and it all depends on the type of pruning that needs to be done.  For example; lopping shears used for better cutting leverage, chain saws to remove larger branches and  pole pruners to prune out of reach branches. However, the following three tools are the most all-round and commonly used pruning tools:

What pruning tools do I need?
  1. Hand Pruner: Hand pruners are also called clippers or secateurs. They are mainly used to trim, shape plants and remove deadhead, you can also use it to prune out dead leaves, damaged leaves, small branches and even to cut back  perennials.
  2. Hedge ClippersHedge clippers are used to trim thin-stemmed hedges. Hedge clippers come in both manual and gasoline or electricity powered. Both types are used to shear off growth in clean straight lines. Be careful  not to overuse your hedge clippers as hedges develop a large quantity of outer twigs and sometimes show an increase in pest problems.
  3. Fingers:  Your fingers make good pruning tools. Of course you won’t use your fingers to prune thick branches and stems however, they work very well for small stems and the removal of dried foliage.  

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