The Complete Guide To Pruning Plants
Unless you’ve done it dozens of times before, pruning plants might sound intimidating. You might think you have to know exactly what to do to every plant in your yard before you finally pick up pruning shears.
Fortunately, this is not true. It really isn’t that difficult! Trust me!
First, rather than thinking of it as your only gardening chore, approach it as something you do every now and then to keep your garden looking good.
What Is Pruning?
Trimming, also known as pruning, is a process of cutting branches, stems, flowers, or other parts of a tree or shrub in a way that is beneficial.
The trimming of plants is beneficial in a variety of ways. Some require pruning on an ongoing basis, while others can grow just as well even without trimming.
Why Prune Plants?
Plant pruning serves a number of purposes. In addition to keeping your garden looking tidy, it keeps this area from getting overgrown and scraggly.
Performing periodic pruning also helps reduce pests and diseases, in addition to growing a strong plant with abundant blooms and fruit.
Taking care of your plants is neither required nor important for most of them, but potentially can make a big difference in how they grow and produce the best flowers, fruit, and veggies.
Benefits Of Pruning Plants
Trimming plants regularly is the best way to maintain their health and beauty. If you are still unsure, here are some of the main reasons to prune your plants regularly.
Promotes plant health – Removing dead or dying branches allows the plant to focus its energy on producing fresh, healthy growth.
Encourages branching, flowering, and fruiting – By removing any unproductive branches, runners, or other extraneous limbs, plants will be able to concentrate more energy on flowering or fruit bearing branches.
Controls size and shape – Pruning trees and shrubs regularly prevents them from growing too big, taking over the space, and also keeps them looking trimmed and attractive.
Prevents disease – The garden should be kept clear of dead plant material to prevent insect pests and diseases.
Pruning Techniques and Methods
If you are using these methods in your backyard garden already, you might already know some of them. There are numerous ways to prune plants but some may be familiar to you.
The practice of deadheading involves removing the faded flowers of a plant after they have finished blooming. By removing the faded blossoms, new blooms will emerge and self sowing will be prevented.
Perennials will also spend their energy on forming new leaves instead of producing seed, which lets them build strength for next year’s blooms.
It is especially useful for aggressive seed-sowers such as chives, columbines, black-eyed Susans, and salvia.
Annual flowers, such as marigolds, zinnias and geraniums, benefit from deadheading as well. Removing spent flowers encourages the plants to produce more buds, which means they bloom for longer.
It is possible to remove faded flowers from annuals and perennials, or you can trim the flower spike back entirely. The flower stems can be cut as low as necessary to make them unobservable.
Plants that become dense in the center are more at risk for fungicides and the bacteria that cause powdery mildew.
Moreover, they may also begin to die off in the middle if those crowded center branches become choked out or don’t receive enough sunlight.
This pruning technique opens up the plant, allowing for better airflow. Remove some of the branches from the center of the tree, allowing the healthiest to flourish disease free.
It is important to regularly inspect your garden and trim the dead or diseased leaves. This ensures your garden will remain healthy and look its best.
Once perennials are done blooming for the summer, maintenance pruning will remove dead or dying leaves.
When this occurs, the remaining flowers are able to stand out against the background of the spent perennial, giving them ample space to grow.
In the absence of regular pruning, some plants become so densely overgrown that the only way to restore them to their former health is to give them a drastic haircut.
Plants are hard pruned when they are cut much shorter than they were before. The exact amount depends on the plant.
Using this method, however, is only recommended by those who know what they’re doing, as some plants won’t grow back if they’re overpruned.
Some quick trimming can be accomplished with just your fingers, without having to grab the pruners.
A good way to eliminate dead flowers quickly is to pinch them. But you can also pinch out the newest growth on some plants for control of their form, size, or bushiness.
When To Prune Plants
Here is a way to make it super easy to figure out when to prune your plants. Do you want to know what it is? The best time to prune is after your plant has finished blooming.
In reality, I said that was just a general rule of thumb. Some plants require more strategic pruning, while others aren’t so fussy. Usually, the best time to trim trees and shrubs is in the winter or early spring.
Late Winter/Early Spring
In order to achieve the best results, shrubs and trees need to be pruned in late winter or early spring. This helps prevent diseases, and can also lead to improved flowering and fruit production.
You should wait until new buds form before pruning if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. You’ll know what branches need to be cut when it grows without new growth.
Summer is a time when some garden areas can begin to look tired, overgrown, or weedy. To keep your garden looking beautiful, be sure to cut back spent perennials throughout the month.
As a result, the current bloomers will be more visible, and things will stay tidy throughout the summer. Pruning some plants will even put on growth again, leaving the whole area looking revitalized.
Unless the perennial foliage has died back on its own, don’t cut perennial leaves all the way to the ground during the summer. Perennials need their leaves to be able to flower next year.
How To Prune Plants
During the process, it’s imperative that your tools are clean and sharp. You can disinfect them by washing them with soapy water or by dipping them in rubbing alcohol and wiping them clean.
After you trim away any diseased plants, make sure you thoroughly clean the sites with water and soap, in order not to accidentally infect other plants.
The flowers of flowering shrubs (e.g., lilacs, wagelia, hydrangea, roses, russian sage, lavender) should be pruned sharply back to the new growth on each stem.
Pruning back shrubs like lilacs and wagelias every few years can help them keep their shape and prevent them from thinning out in the middle.
The dead and damaged branches of any trees blooming or fruiting can be removed at any time of the year.
Trees can also be pruned to keep them from becoming too dense and to improve air circulation (which is important for fruit trees).
Whenever possible, remove suckers growing from the tree’s trunk. Not only do these suckers look bad, but they also steal energy from the tree.
If you have vines, prune off any dead ones that have no new growth on them. This will keep them looking nice, and keep them in good shape and size.
If they get tangled, it’s hard to see what you’re doing. Cut just above the new leaf buds, but give a little thought to not cutting the vine below new growth.
You can prune perennials when they are done blooming. You usually need to cut back the flower stems that are done blooming.
To make the foliage more shapely, you can also cut back the leaves, while not removing too much to make the perennials and spring bulbs grow enough energy to flower the following year.
The choice to prune perennials is entirely optional, but is extremely helpful for keeping the garden looking healthy and vibrant in the middle of summer.
Furthermore, pruning plants that are done blooming makes it easier to see the new ones. Trim out overgrown or scraggly perennials and trim off any yellow or weak growth.
Vegetables and Herbs
Pruning is usually not required with most vegetables, so spending a lot of time on them won’t be necessary.
Some vegetables do benefit from trimming once and a while, and there are other reasons why you may want to head to the vegetable garden armed with a pair of sharp pruners.
Regular pruning and pinching of plants like tomatoes and herbs is beneficial throughout the growing season.
As a result, crops grow healthier and produce more food, and air circulation increases, which reduces the possibility of disease and fungus issues.
In addition to trimming unruly veggie vines to control their size, you can also train them to climb over a broad structure instead of continuing to grow taller and longer.
In addition to promoting fruit ripening, pruning vegetables makes them pay more attention to their unripe fruit towards the end of Summer, when they are heavily loaded with unripe fruit.
By trimming and pinching the new foliage and flowers, you will allow the plants to focus on ripening the fruit that’s already on the plant, resulting in a better late-season harvest.