One of the most common, yet least understood, aspects of home gardening is pruning. Pruning can be a simple process; the “basics” are few, and once understood, can be mastered quite easily.

Proper pruning can turn a tree or shrub into a beautiful plant specimen; improper pruning can result in headaches, heartache, and “butchered” plants.

Nearly any tree or shrub must, from time to time, be pruned in order that it will maintain a desired size or shape, or for the removal of dead or diseased branches. The questions that come to the home gardener’s mind when it comes time to prune are endless.

One of the most frequent questions we often hear is, “Why should I prune?” That’s a good question, and here are some familiar problems that you can solve by correct pruning:

1. DEAD OR INJURED LIMBS: Dead, broken or diseased branches should be cut out as soon as possible with a sharp saw. Be sure to paint the wounds with a tree-wound dressing.

2. SHAPING: Shrubs, trees, roses, etc. may be shaped by pruning to conform to the original idea you had when you planted them. This is especially true in the case of “specimen” shrubs (topiary plants) and espaliers. They must be regularly pruned or trimmed to maintain the desired shape.

To encourage a tree to spread widely, remove its leader. To grow more upright, prune its side branches; to grow more open in the center, remove some of the branches back to the interior of the trunk; and to grow more compact, clip the ends of all branches.

4. LIGHT AND AIR: If a plant is too thick in the center, so that little light and air reach the interior, thin it out by selectively pruning some of the interior branches.

5. LARGE FLOWERS: Remove the small buds that have sprouted beside the larger ones. The strength goes into the remaining larger bud. When you do this you are forcing all of the “plant energy into the production of a single flower or blossom. This procedure is commonly called disbudding.”

6. NEW GROWTH: You can bring about new stem growth by heading back, which means pruning so that the outward growth is cut back toward the main stem. Pruning on top will tend to increase the foliage and branches toward the sides. If you prune the roots, the plant will stop growing somewhat, but will develop more fruit and blossoms.

By Dr. Jerry Parsons


Written by Editor