Basic Principles of Pruning
by Lee Wyatt
(last updated December 12, 2016)
The thing about pruning is that it is a double-edged sword. If you do it right you can help make a plant that is just nice into one that is fantastic. However, if you do it wrong, you can easily end up making the situation worse than it was before. In fact, it is entirely possible to end up killing your plant by accident when you were only trying to do the right thing with some pruning. That is where understanding the basic principle of pruning comes into play. When you fully understand what these principles are, you will be able to get results that you want, when you want them.
- Remember the D's. The most basic of all principles can be summed up with the "Three D" rule. This rule says that the only time you should really do any pruning is when the plant is Damaged, Diseased, or Dead. With this type of pruning, it doesn't matter what time of year it is. In fact, you should use it whenever you come across a part of your plant that meets one of those criteria.
- When to prune. While you can always do a little light pruning year round, it is best to try and keep it within the proper timeframe for the plant in question. For example, deciduous trees should only be pruned during the summer or winter months. The reason for this is that the sap doesn't run as quickly during these times, and you are less likely to cause damage to the tree then.
- Training. If you want to thin out a plant, control, or otherwise train a particular plant it should also generally be done during the early spring or summer months. Ideally, when you are pruning you want to allow the plant to keep its natural shape as much as possible. This means that the pruning that you do shouldn't be obvious, although you may not be able to avoid it if you are just starting out on your training.
- Use the proper tools. Always use the proper tools when pruning. This means that you should use tools like shears, pole saw pruners, hedge shears, and pruning saws. Generally speaking you want to make sure that you use the proper tool for the type of pruning you have in mind. For example, unless you want your plant, shrub, or tree to look like a hedge, you should avoid using any hedge shears or trimmers.
- Make the cuts. When making the cuts, you need to make them as clean cut and smooth as possible. This will require that you keep your equipment in good condition. In addition, you should take the time to learn the types of cuts that you should make when pruning, and when you should use them.