Flowering Quince From Pruning 101

Learn How to Prune like a Pro! Pruning 101

Pruning is a fun garden task but it can be daunting to get started with. For some people it is the gardening version of public speaking – terrifying! Fear the secateurs no more, my friends. We are breaking down pruning to the basics so that you have the skills to prune like a pro. How to Prune like a Pro - demystifying pruning by starting with the basicsThis is the first in a series of articles I’m writing to help your plants thrive with supportive pruning. Be sure to sign up for blog updates or our weekly newsletter to get updates on the latest posts in this series.

 

Reasons for Pruning

First, let’s start with why you should prune and one big reason not to.

Good Reasons to Prune

  • To improve the health and vigor of plants
  • To encourage fruit and flower production
  • To modify shape, or direct growth
  • For safety reasons for instance removing branches that could cause damage to structures and buildings and to avoid conflict with powerlines

Bad Reasons to Prune

To control the size or height of a plant. A better option is to thin a tree and help to shape it rather than topping a tree or fighting a plant when it’s trying to reach its mature size. See more in Supporting the Structure below.

Beautiful tree form (Pruning 101)

The Four D’s

The first rule of pruning is to follow the Four Ds. This means that you can safely prune anything on a plant that is dead, diseased, dying, or damaged. Even more, you SHOULD prune for these reasons. Branches that fall into these categories are causing more stress to the plant left attached than if they are pruned off. Removing the Four Ds helps with the overall health of the plant. Even if removing those branches will look unsightly or unappealing, it’s better to prune them and allow the plant to repair without having to spend energy on healing.Branch structure (Pruning 101)

Supporting the Structure

Despite what many people do in their own gardens, trees never need to be topped. If you have a tree that is growing too large for the space it was allocated then you have the wrong tree! The best course of action is to either consider replacing it or living with it. Topping a tree damages the overall shape of the tree, while encouraging the tree to send out a new leader to continue reaching its mature height. It also creates weak points in the tree which make it more susceptible to breakage.Please don't ever do this to a tree (pruning 101)

If you have a tree that is too large for the area that is planted you can always thin out the tree by removing some of the larger branches on the inside creating a more airy and spacious look that may solve your problem. While this won’t affect the overall height of the tree, it could remove enough density that the tree fits into the allocated space better.

Follow the Lines

The most unappealing (and often pitiful) pruning is when a branch is cut to create a stub. Following the lines of the branches means noticing the natural flow and structure of the plant as it grows from the base or trunk and following that line out towards the end.Say no to stubs and more tips on pruning 101

There are two types of pruning cuts: heading cuts and thinning cuts. Heading involves cutting off part of branch to create a stronger branch and a larger number of smaller offshoots coming from that branch. Thinning removes a branch at its point of origin, which can be at the main trunk, a side branch, or even right to the ground.thinning vs heading cuts

Heading cuts stimulate new growth and thinning cuts prevent new growth.

If you’re looking to remove the branch but would like another branch to grow in its place, then cut the branch just above a bud. This bud will produce a new branch. If you want to remove the branch and not have regrowth then cut the branch at the branch collar and do not leave any visible buds.Golden Fall Foliage (Pruning 101)

Exceptions

Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule like decorative, espalier, or fruit-tree pruning. Creating unnatural shapes in these circumstances can be done for aesthetics or increase fruit production. A tree that has been pruned to take on an unnatural shape requires much more ongoing care and maintenance which I will write about in a subsequent article. For the majority of your home garden pruning needs, stick to the 4Ds and aim for a natural shape and you have the tools to get started!

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour Espalier apple

Save the Trees

If you still aren’t convinced that supportive pruning is best for your garden and your trees, please head over to Plant Amnesty and read a host of brilliant and informative articles on pruning. I had the pleasure of meeting Cass Turnbull, Plant Amnesty President and Founder, at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. I ended up giggling and fawning like a crazed fan because I whole-heartedly support their efforts to “end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs”. Visit Plant Amnesty here.

Want to have shiny, clean tools? Yeah you do! Read How to Clean and Sharpen Pruners on my eBay blog and also see how to keep garden tools clean.

how to clean and sharpen pruners

About the Author : Stephanie RoseAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Shelece
    SheleceMarch 14,16

    Could you post a picture of what a “yes” would look like for a heading cut? The “no” picture looks very similar to the animated heading cut tree picture posted.

  2. Email Spike Review
    Email Spike ReviewMarch 25,16

    Disaster Recovery will be defined as the identification of
    important core part enterprise features and the processes designed tto protect and/or recovery those
    features within the event of a disaster.

  3. DW
    DWJune 13,16

    Just a couple things came to mind. The pictures show species that have complete different growing habits and ways of survival. Second the choice of the pruning tool is one that will cause blunt trauma to the cut. It will cause fractures and torn wood that if used in a maple for instance will cause dead wood several inches down from the cut. The flowering quince could also use a tool more like the ones used for Bonsai since it grows in a clump style.

    A sharp clean cut from both sides and even v shaped into the wood will cure healthier and with out a ugly scar.

    Just a quick observation and its agreed that a little education on such a simple task that terrifies people is much needed.

  4. domonick
    domonickSeptember 22,16

    Good post. I see it too often a good healthy plants growth stunted due to improper pruning. Just got a new set of soft grip titanium pruners pretty excited.

Leave a Reply