How To Prune Shrubs

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This article will teach you general methods for how to prune shrubs.
by Brett · All Zones · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 40,019 views

Pruning Shrubs

What did shrubs do before man came along with his pruners, shears and hedge trimmers? They grew naturally of course - and where we might live now in suburbia probably looked like a jungle! And in jungles, there are snakes and other critters - which some find scary - crawling all over the place. But that was then and this is now.

Though not all shrubs require pruning, many do - particularly if we want them growing in our landscape. And pruning can be effective to form certain shapes, sponsor a new flush of blooms, and to rejuvinate an old, scraggly looking shrub. So there are many benefits to pruning shrubs.

Some gardeners find pruning to be one of the most therapeutic gardening tasks, not only for their plants, but for their own mind and well-being. It's easy to forget about the worries of the world when focused intently on pruning a plant.

Others like to avoid pruning altogether, or keep it to a bare minumum. Either they are afraid to make the wrong cuts, or they simply don't have time to do it - or don't want to spend the money to do it. These gardeners will typically look for the "low-maintence" shrubs when shopping at the nursery.

If you have some shrubs in your yard that you think need pruning, there are a few basic things you'll need.

Pruning Tools

First and foremost, be sure to have the right tools on hand. Sharp pruning shears are a must for every gardener and homeowner - the higher the quality, the easier it will be and the longer they will last. You can also have secateurs, lopping shears, pruning saws and other such tools, but the basic shears are essential. If you have a hedge, a set of power shears will make life much easier, but is not essential. Make sure to keep your shears sharp, and prep them for winter storage each fall with a light application of oil.

Things You Should Know Before Pruning a Shrub

Understanding the natural "habit" or shape of shrubs will help you determine how to prune them. All shoots grow outward from their tips. Whenever tips are removed, lower buds are stimulated to grow. Buds are located at nodes, where leaves are attached to twigs and branches. Each node produces from one to three buds, depending on shrub species.

Shrubs have mounding, cane, or tree-like growth habits. Those with mounding habits, such as evergreen azalea and spirea, generally have soft, flexible stems, small leaves, and are often used in mass plantings.

Shrubs with cane habits include forsythia and nandina. These shrubs spread by sending up erect new branches, called canes, from their base.

Tree-like shrubs have woodier, finely divided branches. Loropetalum, ligustrum, rhododendron and wax myrtle are just a few examples of shrubs with tree-like habits. Thoough these will produce branches and foliage from the base of the plant, many gardeners like to limb them up into small, attractive trees that can be useful in the landscape as "tree-form specimens."

When pruning, you should always trim a branch back to just above one or more healthy leaf buds, no more than about half an inch above. Don't leave stubs; these will invariably die and can become havens for insect pests and disease. Also note that some evergreens like pines and spruce only have terminal buds, and should be treated a little differently. These are best pruned as the new growth is vigorously developing in early summer; cut back a portion of the newer growth (often called "candle") to control their shape.




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