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How to Prune Trees and Shrubs

Pruning trees and shrubs in your yard is for your benefit as much as it is for the plants. Pruning is important to maintain the shape and health of a plant and it is also a good way to encourage new growth and help to reduce the chances of breakage and disease. Both newly planted trees and shrubs, and more mature ones, need to be maintained in order to continue to encourage new growth and development. Trees or shrubs that are not properly maintained can become leggy, diseased, or even die. Pruning to remove dead branches, broken stems, and sucker growth is an important process that contributes to the health and beauty of your trees and shrubs.

As a general rule, it is important not to prune any trees or shrubs in the late spring or summer months because cuts that are made during this time are more susceptible to disease because they do not heal as fast, and there are more opportunities for infection when the weather is mild. Pruning your plants in the late winter and early spring, making sure to prune and maintain before new growth appears, helps to encourage the plant to develop new stems and branches in the area that was pruned. Trees and shrubs that flower or bloom can be maintained throughout the spring and summer season, and it is beneficial to the plant to have all spent blooms pruned immediately after they have faded. Those trees and shrubs in your yard that are grown primarily for their greenery and do not bloom or produce flowers, like hedges, are best to be pruned in late winter and early spring, right before new growth begins to show.

To properly prune trees and shrubs, it is important to have a sharp pair of pruners that can cut cleanly through stems will as little resistance as possible. Pruners that are dull can squeeze and damage the stems and without a clean cut, the plant is left exposed to disease and infection, more so than if the cuts are neat and clean.  To prune flowering trees and shrubs, you take the stem back to the next bud, and leaving ¼” of stem, remove the spent bloom. Trees that do not flower can be taken back to the next branch that leads directly from the leader, or the main stalk. Stems that need to be removed completely should be taken as close to the branch collar as possible. The branch collar is the connection that the branch makes with the leader, the main upright structure of the plant.

After pruning the trees and shrubs in your yard, you will see a significant level of new growth the following growing season that they would otherwise have been unable to achieve had they not been maintained. Maintaining trees and shrubs encourages them to produce new growth, maintain healthy branches and foliage, and helps to keep them looking strong and beautiful. Knowing the correct times to cut and shape them, and how to properly maintain them after that have bloomed, will lead to healthy and lush plants. Maintaining the pruning in your yard, and ensuring that trees and shrubs are regularly tended to, saves time and effort for the following pruning season, and encourages the plants to produce stronger and healthier new growth.