Pruning Trees and Shrubs

What is the biggest mistake that you can make when it comes to pruning trees and shrubs?

Cutting tree or shrub branches incorrectly can lead to decay, or at the very least to unsightly trees and shrubs. It is the cutting too close to the branch collar, or instead, leaving too much of the branch that causes an oval cut which is a poor cut, and can turn to decay.   You can tell when you make a proper cut because your cut will be circular and you want to make your cut just outside of the branch collar.  

Why Is Pruning Important?

In an urban or suburban home, pruning trees is important, primarily, because it reduces your liability if a branch should fall and hit a person, car, house, fence or other structure. But more than that, pruning improves tree and shrub health, making them greener, fuller and more beautiful.

Pruning is when you select certain branches that are too long, growing in the wrong direction, or are in decline and cut them. However, you must make proper cuts, otherwise, you slow down the tree’s ability to heal itself, and in a worse case scenario, can cause decay.

When to Prune?

This really depends on your geographic location. In warmer states, you can prune any time of the year, but again pruning is dependent on the type of tree or shrub you have. For instance, the pruning time for most flowering shrubs is just after the blooming stage in late spring. On the other hand, if you have green shrubs and like them for their shape and privacy, then you want to keep that shape, and in this case, you should not worry about a specific time to prune but instead prune to maintain the shape or form of the shrub you want.

What Tools Should You Use to Prune?

If you are inexperienced in the pruning process, it is best to call in an experienced tree care company to offer pruning services, as these professionals are trained in proper cuts. If you do decide to prune yourself, research your shrub or tree to find the season that is the most appropriate for pruning that particular species of tree or shrub. As a general rule you can use pruning shears or branch cutters, which come as both manual and electric tools.

How to Start

When you are determined to do the pruning yourself, or just want to know how a professional tree cutting service will go about the job (so you know whether he is doing a good job or not), you want to start by removing the dead, diseased and damaged stems whenever you see them. Dead branches bring insects and invite fungi over to the tree. You should also remove crossing branches, sprouts that appear low to the ground on the trunk and suckers that appear near or under ground too close to the tree trunk.  

Pruning Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Early spring blooms appear on wood that was formed from the previous year, so the best time to prune these trees and shrubs is in late spring, just after they finish blooming. If you prune them late in summer or during late fall, you’ll likely remove flower buds and decrease your next spring’s blooms. Remove some of the oldest branches or ground shoots on blooming trees or shrubs as this gives room for the younger stems to grow and create beautiful blooms.

Bottom Line

Pruning trees and shrubs takes skill. You need to learn about each tree or shrub species and then prune them according to the time that works best for the tree or shrub. If it is shape that worries you then you should prune frequently to continue to hold the shape of your shrubs or trees.