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Landscape Pruning

Landscape Pruning A hard cut in late spring or early summer allows bushes to grow thicker and reduces regular maintenance.

Pruning Methods

Tip Pruning encourages a thick, well-shaped plant. Light tip pruning removes only a few inches of stem tips. You usually use this method of pruning in early spring after new growth has occurred.

Thinning is used on broadleaf, deciduous landscape plants to encourage flowering and strong growth. This method of pruning is performed (in early spring before new growth begins) by removing older or weaker branches back to a lateral branch or completely to the ground.

Shearing controls the shape and size of all types of shrubs. Shearing calls for clipping the newest foliage, usually 1 to 2 inches of new growth. Actually, shearing is a type of tip pruning that removes minimal foliage. Broadleaf evergreen hedges and screens are often sheared to promote thick, dense foliage. Always use sharp shears when shearing landscape plants.

Rejuvenation is severe pruning used only on broadleaf evergreens and deciduous plants to control overgrown, leggy, and straggly plants. Use this method of pruning in early spring before the beginning of new growth. A special form of rejuvenation pruning is used for clump-forming shrubs such as nandina and mahonia. One-third of the oldest limbs are removed each year.

Espalier trains a plant to grow against a wall. A tall wall is best for espaliered plants. Pruning may be necessary several times throughout the growing season to acquire the desired shape and form.

Topiary is the art of shaping plants into fantastic or ornamental forms by careful pruning or trimming. Topiary pruning may be necessary several times during the growing season. Broadleaf and narrowleaf trees and shrubs normally respond well as topiaries.

Removing tree limbs requires a special pruning technique. Tree limbs that need pruning should be cut so no stub remains. Do not remove the branch collar. Cut in such a way as to allow the limb to fall without ripping the bark down the tree trunk.


The time of year that you prune plants is important. Pruning at the wrong time may stimulate new growth that could be damaged by early frosts or freezes. It could also remove flower buds that have formed, reducing next year's flowers. The following guidelines will help you prune your plants at the proper time. Most pruning is for size control, and is best done in late winter through early spring.

Prune after the landscape feature of your plant has passed. For spring flowering plants, prune in late spring as the flowering season is ending; this allows for adequate growth during the summer to produce flower buds for the next year. For fall-flowering plants, such as some of the camellias, use tip pruning or thinning method. Prune as the flowering season is ending. For plants with colorful berries, prune after the berries are gone.