This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links, I may earn a small commission.
Pruning is a valuable skill for any gardener, although I found it quite intimidating in the beginning. But learning how to prune shrubs and trees properly will really benefit them. Plus, it adds to the overall aesthetics of your garden.
Many people look at pruning with apprehension. They worry that they might cut the wrong part of the plant or prevent it from growing any more. Or even kill it.
But if you prune your shrubs and trees properly, you will actually stimulate the plant to grow more. You can even dictate which way you want it to grow.
Here are some tips to help you get acquainted with the basics of pruning, so you can pick up the sheers with confidence.
Pruning Tips for Your Garden
Prune in order to first remove any parts of the plant that are dead or are dying. Not only will it look better, the tree’s energy will now be solely be going into live branches, instead of trying to keep a dying branch alive.
Now you can start to prune any branches that are too close together. Stand back often to look at the tree or shrub at a distance; this will help gain perspective and you can see the tree from several angles.
Before you prune your shrubs or trees, do some research online . Find out about your specific plants and learn how to recognize when they need to be pruned.
Generally, you prune woody plants in the spring.
When to Prune Shrubs
You should prune shrubs that bloom in spring and early summer just after they have flowered, to increase their growth and strength. When you have a plant that tends to bloom later in the year, in summer or fall, then you should prune them in the spring.
This will increase their production of new shoots. All cuts made during pruning should be clean and smooth, to enable adequate healing.
This means that your equipment should always be as sharp and effective as possible. Take the time to make sure your pruners and other tools are good to go.
In the photo of the hydrangea shrub above, those lowest 3 branches will get pruned after flowering. Because I want this shrub to grow taller before getting wider, those shoots of new growth at the top of the shrub will stay.
Always make the cuts at an angle, to prevent water collecting in the open wound and to encourage healing. If you cut too close to the bud it will die.
However, if you cut too far away from the bud, the wood above will die. So make sure you get this balance right.
When to Prune Fruit Trees
Fruit trees bloom in early spring, so prune them right after they flower. Don’t forget – ALWAYS cut at an angle.
Prune any branches that crisscross each other. You can see some of those crossed branches in the photo above.
Those branches will be pruned out in a couple of weeks when this Apple tree has finished blooming.
Note: When pruning citrus trees, make sure to leave the trunk as covered as possible. You should not see the trunk of the tree.
Pruning Espaliered Trees
Some people choose to espalier their fruit trees. This means the tree is planted very close to a wall (think south facing wall of the garage or house) and then trained to grow along the wall.
The tree uses the building as a support, and is heavily pruned into horizontal cordons or candelabra shapes.
Espaliering fruit trees is also a great way to build a small micro climate! The heat from the wall could bump you up a full gardening zone (or even two!).
So, if you want to try to grow a peach tree, even though it’s too cold in your area, try using the espalier method. Wrap or cover the trees for the winter. My grandfather was able to grow beautiful peaches using this method.
Here’s a great article to learn more about pruning espaliered trees.
Planting trees in your backyard? Here’s what you need to know about planting fruit trees
Why not make a beautiful perennial border in that sunny part of your yard?
Got a shady spot? Here’s a flower bed made just for the shade!
Need to transplant a woody shrub?
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
Grab the free download available only to subscribers!