General Pruning Guidelines
These are the principles, tools, techniques and reference materials I use when pruning shrubs, trees and more.
1. Right Plant, Right Place
Form follows function. Select smaller evergreen shrubs to place under windows.
For example, I would recommend Sarcococca, English laurel, Daphne, Grasses instead of Photinia, Large Tree Rhododendrons, Camelias to provide curb appeal and the ability to “see” through the window for security purposes.
2. Let Certain Plants go to the ‘Compost Heap in the Sky’
For plants that are badly pruned, the best thing to do is remove and replace.
Call before you dig 48 hours in advance to make sure you know exactly where your utility lines are located before the shovel hits the dirt!
Call 1-800-332-2344 or visit: http://www.callbeforeyoudig.org/
3. Different Strokes for Different Folks
How you prune a nandina is different from a camelia or rhododendron.
Refer to AHS Pruning and Training book for great illustrations and detailed instructions if pruning a particular shrub or tree is new to you.
4. Rejuvenation Pruning
Take shrub back over a three year period to restore back to its normal growth habit. This might be needed for shrubs that have already been topped. You may lose blooms for a year, but the long-term benefits outweigh the bloom lose for one season.
5. General Pruning Tips
a. Prune shrubs after flowering season.
b. Remove the 3D’s first – Dead, Diseased and Damaged.
c. Clean tools between shrubs with rubbing alcohol to prevent spreading disease.
d. Prune back to a branch or bud at a 45 degree angle, no more that ¼” above a bud tip.
6. Pause Before Pruning (PBP)
Have a cup of coffee in hand to slow the pruning process down. Tip: You can always prune more, but you can’t put it back.
Here is a list of tools I use for common pruning jobs:
1. Bypass pruners ½” – 1” diameter
2. Short loppers 3” diameter
3. Pole pruners 3” diameter
4. Pruning saw Use for large limbs and root pruning
5. Shears Use to cut soft, young growth only
6. Square point shovel Use to remove shrubs
7. Goggles Eye protection is a must!
8. Sharpening stone Keeps tools sharp
9. Cloth and vegetable oil Keeps tools in shape
10. Cloth and rubbing alcohol Keeps tools disinfected
11. Coffee and advil To slow pruning process down and for sore muscles afterwards
1. AHS Pruning and Training, By Christiopher Brickell and David Joyce
2. Free publication from Corona Tools: Principles of Planting
3. Free publication from Corona Tools: Principles of Pruning