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Tom Clark

Tom Clark|United States

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A Complete Guide to Pruning Plants

May 08, 2019

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Every great house or property has one thing in common: beautiful vegetation. Trees, plants, and flowers give these places life and provide people with shade, pleasant scents, fruits and vegetables, and a sense of peace. 

Managing your plants and trees is essential to keeping them alive and flourishing for years to come and maximizing their appeal and production. Pruning is one of the best ways to keep them happy, healthy, and safe as well.

In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about pruning plants and trees and show you some tips and tricks to keep your property looking pristine. 

Why Pruning Is Important

Pruning is important for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is safety. If a tree is hanging over a house and falls, it could cause incredible damage, or even hurt or kill someone.

Dead branches or trees hanging over roads, walkways, or other structures present the same risk of damage or injury, so it's important to keep trees pruned to avoid hurting anyone or damaging anything. 

Pruning is also important because it helps the plant flourish. Pruning removes dead, diseased, or damaged plant matter; this allows the plant to direct all of its energy and nutrients into producing new growth, rather than putting it into dead flowers or branches. Pruning also means removing growths that are draining the plant, like waterspouts or suckers. 

Pruning is also important because it keeps plants and trees looking good. Removing dead plant matter and shaping the foliage of a tree or plant keeps it looking neat and alive, which makes your home or property look more organized and better maintained. Proper pruning leads to more flower, fruit, and branch production, which will keep your plants and trees looking fuller and healthier. 

But before you can get out there and tend to your plants and trees, you need to properly prepare. 

Prepare to Prune!

If you don't have the right tools for pruning, you'll do more harm than good by spreading disease or providing places for pests to invade. Pruning also presents some risks, so making sure that you are properly prepared will prevent injuries as well. 

Make sure you're wearing a long sleeve shirt and long pants to prevent scrapes and cuts from jagged branches or thorns. A pair of sturdy gloves is also important because you want to protect your hands from rough bark or thorns, but you also want to protect yourself from the hard, sharp edges of your tools. 

A hat will keep the sun out of your eyes and keep debris from getting in your hair as well. The most important piece is your safety glasses. Pieces of bark or sticks might snap off or hit you in the face during pruning, and your safety glasses will protect your eyes from injury. 

Tools for Pruning Plants

You'll need a few different tools if you want to prune the right way. A sharp pair of pruning shears is essential; it will allow you to quickly and easily cut small branches and get into tight spaces to prune. Make sure to carry your shears in a sheath to keep them sharp and prevent injuries. 

You should also have a pruning saw. A pruning saw is used for cutting larger branches and will be essential if you are pruning trees. You should also have a ladder and some rope handy as well. If you need to climb a tree to prune a branch, a ladder to climb and rope to keep it secure while you climb will be essential. 

When to Prune Plants 

There are optimal times to prune different kinds of plants and trees, but for the most part, pruning can be done at almost all times of the year. There are certain plants and trees that benefit from timely pruning, but they only benefit in terms of how many flowers or fruits they produce. In this section, we'll go over the best time to prune plants and trees. 

Flowering Plants and Trees 

When it comes to pruning flowering plants and trees, it depends on when they flower. Most flowering plants follow one of two flowering cycles: they flower in the summer or fall or they flower in the spring. 

For plants and trees that flower in the summer and fall, you'll want to prune them while they are dormant, which is in the late winter and early spring. This will give them the best chance of directing their energy toward growth and flowering.

For plants and trees that flower in the spring, you'll want to prune them as soon as their flowers start to fade, which should be around early summer. This prevents tree limbs from dying prematurely and also saves the tree energy. 

The only rule of thumb for pruning is to avoid pruning in the late fall. Freshly cut limbs offer places for disease, pests, and rot to enter during the cold months, so make sure your pruning schedule doesn't include late fall or early winter. 

Fruit Trees and Berry Plants 

For fruit trees and berry plants, you'll want to prune them while they are dormant, which is usually during the winter or early spring. The reason you want to prune them while they are dormant is so that when it comes time to flower, the plant or tree is directing their energy toward producing more fruit rather than sinking its energy into growing damaged or diseased branches. 


Perennials can be tough to prune because each perennial has its pruning schedule and needs. Some perennials like asters and heartleaf that need to be pruned in the spring and left standing so they can decompose and provide nutrients to next year's flowers, but most perennials will need pruning in the fall so they can conserve energy through the winter and flourish in the spring. 

Make sure to check which perennial you have so you can find out what is the right time to prune them for maximum flower production. 

How to Prune Plants and Trees

Some basic rules apply to pruning plants and trees, but plants and trees have different needs when it comes to pruning. In this section, we'll walk you through how to prune trees and plants. 

Pruning Plants

Pruning plants is a fairly simple process. Pruning plants mostly involves removing dead flowers and branches so that the plant has the best chance of survival. 


The first method for pruning is called "pinching," which doesn't require shears or equipment. Pinching refers to the act of removing a dead flower or branch by pinching the crisp stem and snapping it. This is a good method for flower beds due to the ease of the method. 

Just reach down to the dead branch or flower, and pinch the stem between your thumb and your forefinger. Make sure to remove the branch or stem as close to new or healthy growth as possible; if you leave a nub or stem, the plant will still put energy into it. 


Deadheading is another method of pruning plants that is simple and effective. Deadheading refers to picking the dead flowers off a plant that continuously flowers. This causes the plant to keep producing new flowers and keeps it looking alive and neat.

To deadhead a flower, simply reach down and pluck the flower from the plant; if the entire stem is done flowering, remove the entire stem. 


You can also shear a plant, which is the most extreme method of pruning. This involves cutting the entire plant back to give new buds and growths a chance to shine. If you notice that a cluster of flowers or a group of branches is dead or done flowering, cut the entire plant back by a third, including the main stalk. 

This gives the plant a chance to produce entirely new growth and buds rather than putting energy into maintaining one live branch amongst a group of dead branches. 

Pruning Trees

Pruning a tree is a simple process. When you prune a branch, make sure to cut the branch where it meets the trunk of the tree, at the "collar." This prevents nubs that can get infected or draw the energy of the tree. Also make sure to disinfect your shears between different trees so you don't spread disease and make the problem worse. 

When it comes to pruning trees, you are looking for a few things: competing branches, waterspouts, suckers, dead branches, and crossing branches.

Waterspouts and suckers are thin growths that grow directly from the tree trunk and suck the energy of the tree. Trim these right at the base and prune them whenever you seem them, even during winter. 

Dead branches are easy to identify based on their lack of foliage and bark and their brittleness and can be removed whenever. For crossing branches, look for places where branches cross and touch each other; this can cause tree limbs to die and become a safety hazard. 

If the branch you want to remove is large, make sure to use your pruning saw. Make a single cut under the branch, within 6 inches of the trunk, then make a cut three inches away from that cut, toward the end of the branch. Once the branch has broken along the cuts, your third and final cut will be at the collar of the branch to remove the nub left behind. 

If your tree has a very large branch or is leaning toward your house, you need to have the tree cut down. Fall is the best time to cut down trees because you don't want the snow to weigh them down during the winter and potentially cause them to fall on your home. 

Your Own Garden of Eden

Now that you know everything there is about pruning plants and trees, you can turn your property into your very own Garden of Eden! 

If you have any more questions about pruning or caring for your plants, please explore our blog.