How to prune shrubs

Once you learn how to prune shrubs, it’ll make garden maintenance a lot easier. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it can improve overall performance, flowering and much more!

Some deciduous shrubs require being pruned in winter. This is due to to them shedding their leaves and sending the food preserves to their roots. If pruned earlier in the year it removes those important food reserves in the green leaves. However, there are some shrubs that benefit from spring pruning depending on when they flower, so check before you start snipping!

Step 1: Check your tools

The tools you used to prune your shrubs can make or break the process. Whether you are using anvil pruners or bypass loppers. Or maybe even small powered tools like chainsaws, wood saws, or a metal hacksaw for thicker branches and trunks. It is vital that your tools are sharp enough to create a straight, clean cut.

Step 2: Where to start

Always cut branches on a slant at a 45 degree angle. Flat cuts are dangerous as they bring the possibility of inviting fungus or disease to your plant. Rainwater slides off a slanted cut. When proceeding to prune, you should cut just above what’s known as the ‘branch collar’. The ‘branch collar’ is a bumpy ring that is filled with plant growth cells, and gives the shrub a better chance of recovering from the cut.

Step 3: Where to prune

‘Heading back’ is a well known technique that gives your shrub a natural look. To achieve this look, locate the tallest main branch. Follow this branch until it meets a lower side branch that points upwards. Cut the main branch off just above the smaller one. Repeat this process with all the main branches, but make sure to continuously access your work. Remember that new growth will give additional height, to prune slightly lower than expected.

If done correctly, then over the next couple of months your shrubs should be growing healthier and stronger than ever. Pruning is an important part of garden maintenance and shouldn’t be ignored.

Read more gardening advice & tips from J Parkers:

When to prune acers

The best time to prune acers is when they’re dormant during November and December. But it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your knowledge to ensure you’re ready for when the time comes. The reason we prune acers whilst they are dormant is due to the sap they bleed when pruned which weakens the tree. It is also best to keep the pruning to a minimum as to keep the natural shape of the tree.

Acers are a great addition to any garden, and make an amazing centre piece for any garden. With leaves that turn beautiful shades of red, crimson, orange or yellow in Autumn. As slow growing and compact plants, acers are especially great for smaller gardens.

One thing to be aware of when planting acers is that they grow best in a sheltered position, and need to be protected from wind and frost.

How to prune

In order to keep this natural shape start by removing the badly-placed or crossing shoots to encourage the natural framework of the tree to grow. When reducing the width and height follow the long branches back to the side branch and prune.

Why we prune

Pruning is much more than sawing off branches. Pruning encourages growth, increases flowering and improves overall plant health. Here are a few others reasons to prune your trees:

  • Strengthens tree structure
  • Improves tree health
  • Reduces the risk of dead or weak branches

Important Notes

The key to making sure your acer continues to grow steadily and healthily is to only prune back to a well-placed side branch. Leaving it as a stub will make it susceptible to decay and dieback. Also remember to take out any dead, damaged or diseased wood.

Whether your acer is the main garden event or just a beautiful addition, keeping on top of its maintenance can ensure that it will take centre stage.

Read more from J Parkers:

Complete Guide: How to Prune

Pruning is an essential job that is often overlooked, but with a little planning and preparation in advance then we can easily maintain the long term health and vibrancy of the garden.  For larger trees it can sometimes be safer and easier to consult a professional, but most pruning is a simple do it yourself job.

Why do I need to prune?

  1. Promotes healthy development – By removing the old, dying or weak branches from the trees/shrubs this will allow the structure to become stronger and flowering thus to become more prolific and less prone to disease.
  2. Maintain the ornamental appearance – Removing damaged or wayward shoots will stop the branches from becoming entangled and messy.
  3. Controls height and shape – If you are looking to keep certain plants, such as climbers or vigorous growing shrubs from becoming unmanageable, then regular and hard pruning will be a must.
  4. Promotes flowering and fruiting – Proving can improve air circulation, should result in more flowers or a much better and larger crop year on year for fruit.

How to Prune

As a starting point cut back and remove all dead and diseased wood.  Always work with the natural habit and structure of the tree or shrub, to encourage continued natural growth. This can be followed up with removing any crossing or rubbing branches at the centre of the plant.  By removing these branches which can act as a barrier to further growth, you will in fact improve circulation around the shrubs/tree, helping to reduce the likelihood of plant disease.

When removing stems, we suggest cutting at a little above healthy buds, cutting back around 0.5cm above.  Never cut back and leave short stubs.  Make all cuts perpendicular to the branch and close to the branch collar to facilitate rapid healing.

For fruit trees, its important to encourage healthy growth and a bumper crop of fruit. It’s critical to prune before the buds appear from mid-late spring.  Make sure that any rubbing or branches that cross each other are trimmed back completely.  Identify damaged or weakened branches and remove these also. Create a simple open structure where the side shoots can develop and become stronger.

SHOP SHRUBS AND TREES NOW

For more information, follow the links below to read our previous posts on pruning different plants;

How and when to Prune Ornamental Trees and Shrubs

How and when to Prune Climbing Plants

How and when to Prune Fruit Trees

How and when to Prune Roses