The easiest and fastest way to have healthy looking plants is to regularly prune them. There are four main goals when pruning plants, shrubs, or trees. They are 1) to remove dead branches, 2) to remove damaged branches, 3) to open the plant and improve air circulation, 4) to create an attractive shape. Pruning promotes healthy growth during flowering season.
Before you prune anything, make sure that you have the proper tools for all cuts and that all your tools are sharp. Dull tools can create cuts that are prone to decay.
Some popular pruning tools include:
1. Bypass pruners. Bypass pruners are essential to prune anything, that’s why you see most gardeners with them attached to their hip. They can cut stems up to 1/2 inches in diameter.
2. Bypass loppers. For larger stems, use the longer handled Bypass loppers. They cut bigger stems, up to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, with ease.
3. Shearing scissors. Shearing scissors are great for shaping hedges faster.
Basic Pruning Steps
1. Remove all dead branches or foliage. This is usually enough to open up the plant so that no further pruning is necessary.
2. Remove damaged branches. This usually requires re-shaping of the plant. Once the damage is removed, you may notice that the plant has lost its shape. If you want it a certain shape, like a box or a circle, use the shearing method. This involves cutting back the plant to retain a desired shape. If you want a more natural look after removing the damaged branches, use the thinning method. This involves cutting entire branches back to a main branch. Be sure to thin out the tallest stems first to promote growth on the side branches.
Pro tips: When making your cuts, be sure to angle them at 45-degrees. This helps prevent water damage and disease. Cut limbs about 1/4 inch above a bud that faces the outside of the plant. This will be the direction of the new growth.
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