What is Pruning?

Pruning is the selective removal of dead or damaged branches, crossing or parallel branches, suckers and water sprouts to increase airflow, provide structure and shaping, rejuvenate, increase blooming and improve the overall health of trees and shrubs.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  Pruning is, in fact, one of the biggest enigmas in the garden.

It can also be one of the most rewarding tasks. Learning how to prune each of your plants correctly can save you hours of time, energy and money. 

Here are a few very general rules. 

When to Prune

The removal of dead or damaged branches, water sprouts and suckers can and should be done whenever they are noticed.

Overall pruning, shaping and rejuvenation depends on the plant. While the vast majority of trees and shrubs are best pruned in late winter (February) or early spring (March), some plants (like Azaleas, Dogwoods and certain Hydrangeas) should be pruned in late spring (May) or early summer (June) so their blooming is not impacted. As a general rule of thumb, any plant that blooms in spring should be pruned immediately after it has finished blooming.

Fall pruning (starting in September) is generally not recommended as it can encourage new growth that may not be hardy enough to survive the oncoming winter.

The links below contain pruning calendars from the Virginia Extension Service for the preferred pruning time of many garden favorites.

Tools For Pruning

We recommend hand tools in place of electric shears on all plant material to achieve a neat and natural appearance rather than a sheared “boxy” or “rounded” effect.

  • Hand Pruner for cutting thinner branches
  • Loppers for cutting thicker branches
  • Pruning Saw for cutting the thickest of branches
  • Long Pole Loppers for cutting higher, harder to reach branches
  • Long Nose Shears for shaping
  • Snips for deadheading and soft, new growth

Note: Hedge Trimmers are NOT on the list of preferred tools!

Now that you know why we prune, when to prune and what to prune, click the link below for Virginia Tech’s Guide to pruning.

A Guide to Successful Pruning