Do you know what happens to the majority of herb gardens within their first year? They either die off, grow wildly out of control, or manage to do a little bit of both. Why does this happen? It happens because, unless you know how to prune herbs, all of the careful planning and planting in the world will not be enough to maintain a healthy, productive, herb garden.
If you want to nurture a lush, vibrant, fruitful herb garden, you need to know how to prune.
Table of Contents
Difference Between Pruning, Trimming and Harvesting Herbs
Why Should You Prune Your Herbs
How Much Should You Prune Your Herbs
Ways In Which Herbs Can Be Classified
Herbs Which Require Light Pruning
Herbs Which Can Cope With Hard Pruning
Equipment For Pruning Herbs
Light Pruning Techniques For Herbs
Hard Pruning Techniques For Herbs
When Should You Prune Your Herbs
Harvesting Your Herbs
Harvesting The Stems or Leaves Of Your Herbs
Harvesting The Flowers and Seeds Of Your Herbs
What To Do With Your Prunings
The Difference Between Pruning, Trimming, And Harvesting Herbs
You will often hear gardeners use the words “trimming,” “pruning,” and “harvesting” interchangeability. There are, however, three different techniques, with three different applications.
I’ve previously discussed the difference between pruning and trimming, but here’s the “lite” version:
“Pruning is when you make a single, precise cut, one stem at a time to promote the health and/or growth of a plant. Trimming is when you clip multiple stems at once in order to maintain the plants’ shape. Generally, less precision is required with trimming than with pruning.”
Now, to throw another term into the mix. Harvesting.
While similar to pruning, harvesting is subtly different. Harvesting requires the gentleness and precision of pruning. It would be easy to undo all of your hard work by harvesting too much of your herbs at once and causing it damage.
On the other hand, unlike pruning, when you harvest part or all of a plant, you are doing so in order to eat it and not to encourage growth. For this reason, you will be harvesting when the herb is at its peak flavor or scent and not when it is dormant or when you want to encourage growth and good health.
This a guide to pruning in order to maintain the health of your delicious plantings but I will also talk about the best way to harvest, use, and store your herbs.
Why Should You Prune Your Herbs?
The primary reason to prune any plant is to maintain good health. However, depending on the plant in question, pruning may also:
- Stimulate new growth.
- Prevent a plant from becoming top-heavy or tall and spindly.
- Encourage thicker bushier foliage.
- Promote the growth of more fruits.
- Direct the plants’ energy to the gardener’s preferred feature (fruits, flowers, foliage, etc)
- Propagate new root growth.
- Prevent the plant from growing beyond the space available for it.
How Much Should You Prune Your Herbs?
The goal of pruning your herbs is to encourage healthy growth. However, just as a little pruning can be a good thing, it doesn’t mean that a lot of pruning is better. In fact, quite the opposite is true. By over-pruning, you can impair your herbs’ ability to produce that rich tasty new growth you are looking forward too. In fact, by wielding the pruning shears over vigorously you might even kill your herbs off entirely.
So. How do you walk the delicate tightrope between light pruning, hard pruning, and pruning your herbs to death?
You find out what type of plants you have in your herb garden, that’s how.
Ways In Which Herbs Can Be Classified
There are many classifications for plants. Some of them are straightforward and some of them are a subject for debate. It would be easy to become bogged down in a discussion about the details and intricacies of classifications, but that’s not what we’re here for. In this article at least.
So. Below are definitions for some of the terms used in plant classification. These are seen, generally, as acceptable definitions and they may or may not be open for debate in the wider horticultural community.
Classification According to Tissue Type
An herbaceous plant is one whose above-ground structures do not become woody. In addition, these structures die back at the end of the growing season. Technically speaking, all plants begin their lives as herbaceous plants. Some remain herbaceous while others go on to become Woody.
In a botanical sense, all herbaceous plants can be referred to as herbs. This can be confusing for new gardeners because when we speak about “herbs” in a herb garden we are referring to those plants which have a culinary, therapeutic, or another similar purpose.
In this guide, when I talk about herbs I am using it in the culinary etc. sense.
Some plants go on to produce wood as their structural tissue. These plants are woody but are not exclusively trees.
Classification According To Lifespan
A plant whose entire growing cycle is completed within one year. After this single cycle, the plant dies.
A biennial plant takes two years to complete its lifecycle. During the first year, the plant produces roots, stems, and leaves before entering a dormant period over the colder months. Then, during the second year, the plant produces flowers, fruits, and/or seeds and then dies.
These are non-woody plants that live for two or more years, with the plant dying back to ground level during the cold months. This is followed by new shoot growth in the spring.
Plants that live for two or more years, maintain a shoot system above the ground over the colder months and develop a woody structural tissue.
Classification According To Leaf Duration
Plants that retain their foliage year-round.
Plants that drop their foliage after the growing season.
Plants that retain dead leaves or petals.
These are just a few of the many, many ways in which plants are classified. However, this is all the terminology we need in order to discuss how to prune your herbs.
Herbs Which Require Light Pruning
Light pruning is most appropriate for the more delicate herbaceous plants in your herb garden. These are herbs such as basil, cilantro, and lemon balm. These herbs will flourish throughout the summer and depending on their life-cycle, either die back or die completely once the cold weather arrives.
Lightly pruning these herbs throughout the summer months will encourage them to sprout new growth, become bushier, and be generally healthier and more productive.
The best technique for these plants is “Tipping” which will encourage them to branch out and produce new stems. I’ll discuss tipping in more detail under techniques, but, basically speaking, tipping is cutting off the uppermost inch or two of growth in such a way that it encourages growth in two directions from the cut.
Herbs Which Can Cope With Hard Pruning
Woody herbs and some of the hardier herbaceous plants will survive, and in fact, may require some hard pruning.
These plants include thyme, sage, and rosemary, as well as a favorite both in and out of the herb garden – lavender.
Most woody herbs can become sturdy, flourishing plants without much in the way of maintenance at all.
Equipment For Pruning Herbs
For a detailed look at how to select the right equipment for the job, you can check out my article How To Select A Pruner: The Complete Guide. In the meantime, as a general guideline, you will need:
- A good pair of bypass pruners.
Light Pruning Techniques For Herbs
The most important thing to remember when pruning your delicate herbs is what you shouldn’t do, namely:
Don’t remove too much plant
More specifically, don’t cut off the larger leaves, especially those near the base of a plant. Why? Because those are the leaves that are most important to the health of your plant. The larger leaves soak up significantly more sunlight than the smaller, newer growth and your herbs can suffer greatly if these bigger “sun sinks” are removed.
In addition, do not cut back more than half of a healthy plant. If you do so you’re likely to see your herb die off. This is because it is especially difficult for a plant to rebound from such a significant reduction in its size.
Tipping, also known as pinching, is a technique used on young plants to encourage branching. However. Just to be confusing, those terms are also used for the practice of removing buds to discourage branching.
When your herb first breaks the surface of the soil, it will do so with a single stem. The growth of your plant will be led by this single stem. Assuming your herb branches out and becomes bushier this single stem will eventually allow buds to open up and become more lush. By pinching out the tip you will encourage your herbs to “bush” sooner than they would if the plant was left to its own devices.
How To Pinch Or Tip The Right Way
Before you begin to tip your plant, wait until it has grown at least three pairs of leaves. Until this stage, your plant is just too young to begin pruning. At the base of each leaf, just above where the leaf is emerging from the stem, you will see buds. This point of the plant is called the node. On some plants, you will see a horseshoe shape mark where a stem has detached. This marks the location of the node. The lengths of a stem which grow between the nodes are called internodes.
To correctly tip, or pinch, your herb use your fingernails or a tiny pair of scissors to pinch the stem, just above the node. It is vital to avoid damaging the new buds growing at the base of the existing leaves. If you pinch two closely and damage the buds they will fail to grow correctly.
As long as you have been careful, and have not damaged them, you should see the buds begin to open up to form new stems. You can repeat the entire process once these new stems have developed three pairs of leaves.
If you are pinching a flowering herb the flowers will not grow while you are actively pinching. Instead, you will have to wait until the plant has reached your desired state of bushiness and then stop pruning. Only then will the plant be able to flower.
Hard Pruning Techniques For Herbs
In the case of woody herbs, you should begin your pruning by removing any dead or diseased branches. This can be done at any time of the year and you can cut these back to ground level if you wish.
Then, when new growth is just beginning to emerge, usually during spring, you can use pruning shears to cut back up to a third of each stem. Do not cut back any more than this at a time or you risk damaging the plant to such a degree it cannot recover. If you need to drastically reshape or cut back your plant, you will have to do so over two or three years, trimming up to a third of each stem each year.
Be careful not to prune towards the end of the growing season as you do not want your herbs producing new, tender growth just as winter begins to set in.
When Should You Prune Your Herbs?
When you prune your herbs depends, to some degree, on why you are pruning. In all cases, you can prune annuals right up until the first frost hits. After this, it is still ok to harvest your herbs but you are likely to find that the quality takes a nosedive very quickly. You should stop pruning or harvesting biennials and perennials one month before the first frost is forecast.
- Pruning to promote growth and production: When you have a young plant or an older plant that you want to reinvigorate, you can prune during active growth. What is more important, in this case, that you prune carefully, so as not to damage the delicate buds at the nodes.
- Pruning to control a plants size and shape: If your objective is to prevent tall straggly plants or to restrict your plants to the space available, then you can tip/pinch out during the active growing season. In addition, for biennial or perennial plants, you can prune during their dormant period. The thing to remember is that you should not prune towards the end of the growing season as this can stimulate new growth at a time when the plant should be directing its energies into “shutting down” for the winter.
- Pruning to remove dead or diseased parts of your plants: If you spot yellowing, wilting, dead, or dying leaves of stems, you should remove them as soon as possible and not wait until the “correct” time to prune. The same timing applies to any part of the plant that displays signs of disease or damage from pests.
For some herbs, such as lavender and tarragon, you can harvest the flowers and cut back the entire plant in July. Depending on your location and the weather where you are, this should result in a second round of flowers before the end of the growing season.
Harvesting Your Herbs
The techniques for harvesting your herbs are much the same as those for pruning your herbs. It is still vital to ensure you harvest in such a way that the plant does not sustain any damage. By being gentle with your harvesting you can expect to be rewarded with a delicious, plentiful crop all season long.
The trick is to harvest in a way which encourages continuous growth of the part of the plant you want to use. For example, if you want to harvest the flowers or the seeds of your herb, the pruning regime you will follow is different to the one you will use on herbs where you will harvest the leaves and stems.
Harvesting The Stems Or Leaves Of Your Herbs
To keep your plants happy, healthy, and enthusiastically producing the most delicious leaves remember:
- Never harvest more than one-third of the plant at a time: If you do so, you risk killing the plant off entirely. Even if it doesn’t die the growth will be weak at best.
- Do not allow your plant to flower: If you are never going to use the flowers, don’t allow your plant to waste energy and resources to grow them. Not onlythat but when a herb begins to flower it changes the taste of the leaves and stems, often making them bitter and unpalatable. To avoid this pinch off any flower buds as soon as they appear.
- Don’t randomly pull leaves off of your plant: Remember when I wrote earlier, about pinching/ tipping your plant? This is always the way to harvest the leaves and stems you wish to use. When you pull off random leaves there is no way for the plant to regrow in that area because there will not be any buds primed to grow in their place. Not only that but your herbs need those larger, mature leaves in order to photosynthesize. Pull off random leaves often enough and you will be well on your way to killing off your herbs. There are two exceptions to this:
- If your plant is so big that it is not going to suffer from the loss of a couple of larger leaves here and there.
- When you have pinched out a stem lower down on the plant and a larger leaf is blocking out all of the daylight the buds need to grow.
- Do use the basic tipping/pinching technique for harvesting: In the same way that you want to prune just above the node, you will want to harvest in the same spot using your fingernails or a small pair of scissors for delicate herbs and pruning shears for the hardier members of your garden.
- For optimal flavor, harvest leaves in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the full heat of the day has arrived.
Harvesting The Flowers And Seeds Of Your Herbs
There are a number of different points to remember if you are harvesting the flowers or seeds of your herbs:
- Ensure your flowers or seed pods, are completely dry: If they are even slightly damp you run the risk of them beginning to rot. The exception to this is if you intend to use the fresh flower immediately.
- Choose where to cut them stem: If you cut just below the flowerhead it is likely, depending on the plant, that flowers will regrow. However, in this case, you will have nothing from which to hang your flowers for drying. On the other hand, if you cut the flower from the base of the stem you will have a nice long stalk from which to hang your flower, but little chance of regrowth. For the best of both worlds, you can cut the flower just above a node, in which case the plant will regrow with two stems instead of one.
- Have patience for seeds: To harvest seeds you will have to wait for the flowers to bloom and the seed pods to form. Then you have to wait a fair bit longer until the seed pods are beginning to dry on the plant. Only then can you finally cut off the seed pods. Seed pods are the final stage of your herbs lifecycle. If the seeds you are harvesting are from an annual you do not have to be that careful when pulling off the pods. Just be sure not to damage any pods left behind which are not yet ready for harvesting.
- For optimal flavor, harvest your flowers after they have begun to open, but before they have fully bloomed. In the case of seed pods, pick them as they begin to turn brown.
What To Do With Your “Prunings”
When you prune your herbs to promote growth, you may be left with lots of trimmings that could be put to good use. You can do one of three things to use your herbs:
- Fresh Use: The easiest, and most obvious thing to do with your herb trimmings is to use them there and then. However, you may not have the time, inclination, or appropriate food to use the herbs straight away. Some herbs with stems, such as basil, can be treated like cut flowers and placed in a container of water. This will keep them fresh for up to a week. Others, such as chives can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Dried Herbs: There are many ways to dry your herbs, either the flowers, leaves, or stems:
- The most traditional way, for low moisture herbs such as sage and parsley, is to bunch them together, tie with some string or twine and hang them upside down. You will want to hang them in a dry, dark, preferably warm, spot, where there is plenty of airflow around the herbs. It can take up to three or four weeks for the herbs to dry. When they are ready, strip the leaves from the stalks.
- Fore herbs with a higher moisture content, such as mint and lemon balm, you need to dry them more quickly to prevent rot. Strip the leaves from the stems and lay them out in a single layer on a drying rack. If you do not have a drying rack you can use any item that allows air to flow freely around both sides of the leaves.
In the case of both methods, store your dried herbs in an opaque, airtight container. Either a ceramic or glass jar is the best option as they will not affect the flavor of your herbs. Do not chop your herbs until immediately before you use them.
- Rerooting: Put your cut herbs trimmings into a jar with a little water, making sure to keep the majority of the herb trimming out of the water. Change the water every other day and after a few weeks, you should see new roots peeking out from your trimmings. Once these roots have emerged you can transplant your new plants into the garden.
Herbs are both an attractive and useful addition to your garden. The correct pruning techniques will ensure you have healthy plants throughout the year. The trick is to learn what type of plant your herb is, what kind of pruning is most appropriate for its health, and how to harvest your herbs without damaging the plant as a whole.
With this knowledge, you can not only keep your garden well stocked with lush, fragrant growth, but you’ll have a fridge and a pantry full of herbs to enjoy.
Do you know what happens to the majority of herb gardens within their first year? They either die off, grow wildly out of control, or manage to do a little bit of both. Why does this happen? It happens because, unless you know how to prune herbs, all of the careful planning and planting in the world...
It happens because, unless you know how to prune herbs, all of the careful planning and planting in the world will not be enough to maintain a healthy, productive, herb garden.. Difference Between Pruning, Trimming and Harvesting HerbsWhy Should You Prune Your HerbsHow Much Should You Prune Your HerbsWays In Which Herbs Can Be ClassifiedHerbs Which Require Light PruningHerbs Which Can Cope With Hard PruningEquipment For Pruning HerbsLight Pruning Techniques For HerbsHard Pruning Techniques For HerbsWhen Should You Prune Your HerbsHarvesting Your HerbsHarvesting The Stems or Leaves Of Your HerbsHarvesting The Flowers and Seeds Of Your HerbsWhat To Do With Your Prunings. Pruning to promote growth and production: When you have a young plant or an older plant that you want to reinvigorate, you can prune during active growth.. Pruning to control a plants size and shape: If your objective is to prevent tall straggly plants or to restrict your plants to the space available, then you can tip/pinch out during the active growing season.. Pruning to remove dead or diseased parts of your plants: If you spot yellowing, wilting, dead, or dying leaves of stems, you should remove them as soon as possible and not wait until the “correct” time to prune.. The techniques for harvesting your herbs are much the same as those for pruning your herbs.. For example, if you want to harvest the flowers or the seeds of your herb, the pruning regime you will follow is different to the one you will use on herbs where you will harvest the leaves and stems.. Dried Herbs: There are many ways to dry your herbs, either the flowers, leaves, or stems: The most traditional way, for low moisture herbs such as sage and parsley, is to bunch them together, tie with some string or twine and hang them upside down.. The trick is to learn what type of plant your herb is, what kind of pruning is most appropriate for its health, and how to harvest your herbs without damaging the plant as a whole.
An essential gardening skill is pruning. Here's the initial principles of cutting back and pruning to maintain healthy-looking, prolifically flowering or beautifully shaped trees, shrubs and perennials. Words John Hoyland, photographs Gavin Kingcombe
The mysteries of pruning can seem so daunting that nothing ever gets pruned .. Fearful gardeners often take refuge in stories one hears about there being no difference between randomly pruning with the brute force of hedge trimmers and pruning slowly and carefully in the correct way.. The first step in overcoming our fear of pruning is to understand why a particular tree or shrub needs to be pruned .. Understanding how plants grow and develop, and the effects on plants of cutting into a stem, is important for successful pruning.. The buds at the tip of tree and shrub stems – the apical buds – produce growth-restricting hormones (known as auxins) that are sent back through the stem to buds lower down.. For all shrubs that have individual stems pruned the cut is the same.. It is this aspect of pruning that seems complicated and leads to most anxiety: some plants flower on this year’s growth, others on old wood; some plants flower early in the year, others much later.. The correct time of year to prune varies from plant to plant.
Just like any other skill, pruning requires knowing what you are doing to achieve success. The sad truth is that more trees are dying every year from
Thinning does the accepted thing to the tree’s natural branching habit and results in a more open tree, emphasizing the branches’ internal structure.. After trees and shrubs, another pruning technique involves removing broken, crossing, and pest-infested branches.. If you are transplanting woody plants, it is very necessary to note that the only pruning technique you can make use of is the removal of broken or damaged branches.. Note; the central leader of a tree shouldn’t be pruned unless the leader is not needed anymore, just like in the case where many stemmed plants or some naturally low-branched trees are wanted.. Trees with a central leader, like sweetgum, magnolia , Texas road oak, etc, may require a bit or no pruning apart from getting rid of branches competing with the central leader.. In this method, pruning is just about making cuts on the branches so that a more wanted plant is achieved through solid and controlled growth.
What parts though? Where do you cut plants when pruning? Above the leaf node on a soft-stemmed plant, or a fraction of an inch from a branch collar on a
Pruning trees and shrubs requires a combination of reduction cuts, thinning cuts, and heading cuts.. The only time cuts are made below a leaf node is for propagation – cutting part of a plant to start a new plant.. When making reduction cuts, since it is cutting the branch down from the top to restrict height, there is no branch collar.. When pruning branches on fruiting trees, cut about a quarter-inch below a growth bud to stop it from growing.. Unlike heading cuts which reduce the length or height of a branch, a thinning cut removes the entire branch right back to the main branch.. When removing large heavy branches, cut it back by at least one third first, then make a second cut 12 to 15 inches shorter, then a final cut a quarter inch from the branch collar.
Pruning is one of the most important cultural practices for maintaining woody plants, including ornamental trees and shrubs, fruits and nuts. Proper pruning requires a basic understanding of how plants respond to various pruning cuts. The principles and guidelines in this publication will help you master common pruning techniques.
Or you may want to prune mature plants to control their size and shape, as in the case of fruit trees that are pruned low to the ground to aid picking or hedge plants pruned at a particular height.. Proper pruning requires a basic understanding of how plants respond to various pruning cuts.. By removing the apex, pruning temporarily destroys apical dominance and stimulates the growth of lateral buds into shoots.. Pruning stimulates growth closest to the cut in vertical shoots; farther away from cuts in limbs 45° to 60° from vertical.. It also is the most invigorating type of pruning cut, resulting in thick compact growth and a loss of natural form, as in the case of a formally pruned hedge.. Important in maintenance pruning, thinning cuts are used to shorten limbs, to improve light penetration into plants and to direct the growth of shoots or limbs.. Two areas of the cambium, the bark ridge at the junction of two limbs, and the branch collar , a ring of slightly raised tissue where the lateral branch joins the main limb, function to close off the wound between the plant and the pruning cut.. Thinning cuts are the least invigorating type of cut and are the most effective pruning cut for maintaining woody plants in their natural form.. Pruning, particularly heading cuts, stimulates regrowth very close to the pruning cut.. Bench cuts, pruning upright limbs back to flat limbs, result in vigorous regrowth and weak limbs.
Why Prune? Pruning is often regarded as one of the most intimidating aspects of gardening. Fearful of making a mistake, many people simply avoid it altogether, or indiscriminately cut back plants in a vain attempt to limit their size. Others make prun
Before you make the first cut, have a clear idea of how that tree or shrub should look in future years.. Pinching is the removal of just the active growing tips of branches early in the season, stimulating the growth of lower buds on the stem.. Removal cuts are thinning cuts that remove branches all the way back to the main stem or trunk.. With reduction cuts, branches should be pruned just beyond the branch collar to encourage proper healing.. Flush cuts that remove the branch collar or damage the branch bark ridge limit the growth of woundwood, leaving tees with poorly sealed wounds that invite decay organisms into the trunk.. Thus late summer pruning is the time to reduce growth without stimulating bud growth.. On the other hand, plants that bloom in the summer should be pruned before growth begins in the spring, because these plants develop their flower buds on the current season’s growth.. Dead, diseased, or damaged branches can be removed at any time of the year.. Carefully removing diseased or torn branches by making clean cuts back to living wood can help limit the spread of decay and protect the health of your tree or shrub for years to come.
Pruning directly benefits the health and visual appeal of shrubs, trees, hedges, rose bushes, and other landscape plants. Learn how and when to prune, and find out what sort of tools are best for the job.
Pruning helps to manage the growth and structure of shrubs and trees, removes dead or diseased stems and branches, and encourages the development of flowers, fruit, and new foliage.. Dead, Dying, Broken, or Diseased Branches: Any branches or stems that are dead, dying, diseased, or broken should be pruned.. Branches that Cross or Grow Inward or Downward: Remove branches that are growing across each other, or at least prune one of the offending limbs.. Old Trees and Shrubs: Older trees and shrubs will often benefit greatly from pruning, as it will encourage them to produce new, vigorous growth that results in similarly healthy flowers and fruit.. When pruning larger branches, cut back to a lateral branch—i.e., where a smaller branch emerges from the branch you are pruning.. Prune side branches back to the main branch or trunk, leaving the collar (stub of a branch that resembles a raised ring around the base of the branch).. For smaller branches, use a pruning saw or hand pruners to remove branches, cutting back to an outward-facing bud or intersecting branches.. Pruning in early spring allows these shrubs to focus their growth on the newly cut areas and prevents you from removing any stems that might have produced flowers.. Shorten branches that are expanding beyond the desired length by cutting them back to a lower branch beneath an overhanging branch.
Learn how to prune an apple tree, what tools you need and what important factors to consider to obtain high quality fruits.
They may be called “the forbidden” fruits , but apples are relatively easy to care for and you can expect to obtain a good yield in most years, especially if you learn how to prune apple trees.. The best time to prune apple trees is either late in the winter or early in the spring because that’s the time when the tree is entering a dormant state after shedding its leaves and before new buds appear.. Spurs – branches that produce fruit, in this case, apples.. Water sprouts – thin branches that grow from later branches of the tree and do not produce any fruit.. It’s easy to spot dead or diseased limbs because they snap easily and are very brittle.. Make the first cut just below the branch, about a few centimeters from the trunk.. To stimulate growth, you can make good use of heading cuts.. Make the heading cuts above growth buds that are facing outwards, so that new branches can develop away from the tree.. Heading cuts are very practical to shape young apple trees.. If you want to shorten thin lateral branches using heading cuts, make the cuts in old wood to have less new growth.. Thinning cuts are made to remove entire branches or limbs and to open the interior of the tree to receive more sunlight.. Thinning cuts are used very often to prune apple trees because you have to remove excess branches more often than you have to create new ones.. However, make sure you don’t cut too much.
Most Hydrangeas don't typically require pruning, but there are some situations where it may be appropriate. If the shrub has gotten too big for its growing area or needs a bit of a haircut, then you may want to snip off dead branches. However, pruning at the wrong time can prevent next year's blooms.
Still, many Hydrangea lovers wonder if they should prune or cut back these plants.. It’s a good idea to always try to plant these beauties in a space that’s big enough for the bush to grow to full size without needing to be cut back and reined in.. Stems are known as “old wood” if they’re the same stems on the plant during the previous summer before the growing season.. Making the mistake of pruning your old wood Hydrangea at the wrong time can result in a season with no blooms.. These shrubs that bloom on new wood are more prone to the legginess problem I just described than the old wood varieties because the stems are typically less robust than their old wood counterparts.. Reason #4 – You Want to Cut Back Old Blooms Hydrangeas produce some of the most beautiful blooms that you’ll see on a garden shrub.. If it’s an old wood bloomer, remove only the bloom, snipping or pinching it off just below the base of the flower.. Reason #5 – You Want to Keep Your Hydrangea Small Hydrangeas tend to grow to their desired size (or at least try to) even if you cut them back.. Pruning your Hydrangea at the wrong time could result in a sad summer with no blooms!. The best time to prune is either just before or just after your Hydrangea’s growing and flowering period.. After 5 years, cut back ⅓ of stems to the ground each summer after blooming.. Panicle Hydrangeas should not be cut down to the ground; instead, just remove up to ⅓ of the oldest stems to improve new growth and blooms support.. Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood will rebloom after pruning because the flowers develop on the current season’s growth.. However, Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood may not rebloom after pruning for at least the next year.. In that case, you can check out the information in this article to make sure you prune your plant at the right time to get the best result.
Use our plant pruning guide to improve your plants’ health and appearance—without harming them.
“Cutting back” or “shearing” generally refers to removing foliage and flowers to control height or flowering time.. For most plants, however, all you need to remember is to prune spent flowers and stems back to a point where there’s a new lateral flower or bud.. Wildung says most pruning should be done when trees or shrubs are dormant.. Thinning out is the removal of some branches completely to the ground.. “Depending upon the age and size of the plant,” Wildung says, “remove no more than two or three branches per year, usually the oldest branches each time.” It opens up the plant to get better light penetration and air circulation and to remove older, less productive wood.. On most plants it should be done in early spring but on flowering shrubs, it should be done after bloom.
We'll answer some common tree pruning questions and walk you through basic tips to help you keep your trees healthy and productive.
Once a tree leafs out, more sap is flowing in the tree, and cuts are more likely to weep sap and take longer to heal.. When I spoke to the owner of a local fruit tree orchard, he said he prunes from December through April, because he has so many trees.. The primary goals of tree pruning are to improve plant health and direct the growth of the tree.. Use the proper pruning tools for the cut – pruning shears for small branches, loppers for mid-sized branches, and saws for larger branches.. Never pull off a partially cut branch so that the bark rips off the tree.. With pollarding, trees branches are removed each year, back to the main trunk or a few short branches.. As trees grow, you want to encourage spacing between branches and branch crotch angles wider than 45 degrees.. A branch crotch is where the branch joins the trunk of a tree.. Wide crotch angles are especially important for fruit trees, because they help light get into the center of the tree to improve fruit set.. This keeps the branch from breaking part way through branch removal and tearing the bark down the tree.. We use the modified central leader method for our apple trees, but the central leader method also works well for dwarf and semi-dwarf trees.. Sometimes you need to prune mature trees to improve a view, keep them from hitting obstacles, or improve the health of the tree.. Don't remove more than a few branches each year, or you can injure your tree.. With crown reduction, you cut back branches to vigorous side branches.. Use this method instead of tree topping (haphazardly sawing off the top of a tree) to shorten trees.
In this guide, we will review common tree pruning sealers and wound dressing made at home. As you prune your trees, you will leave them with some wounds
In this guide, we will review common tree pruning sealers and wound dressing made at home.. Sealers are an option, but are tree pruning sealers necessary ?. Others don’t quite agree, as they see tree sealers as a great way to get your tree back in top shape in the quickest possible time.. Trees heal themselves over time, they do this by growing over the cut areas, or “the wound”.. In the case of a wounded oak tree, you should use a pruning sealer immediately after pruning.. However, asphalt sealers don’t help the tree to heal, since it is an oil-based product.. Organic natural tree sealers – This is another viable option for sealing up tree wounds.. Homemade tree pruning sealers – There are different types of “recipes” as far as homemade pruning sealers are concerned.. However, if your homemade sealer can achieve the basic goal of covering up the wounds of the tree for the 10-day healing process to take effect, then it’s good enough.. Most tree experts will tell you that it is better to leave a tree wound alone so it can heal itself (as it has always done during history).. Cut a thin portion of 1/2 inches from the limb stub so the surface will be smooth (the remaining area where the limb used to be should be about 2 inches outward from the trunk Dust off the debris from the stub (this will create a nice surface for the liquid pruning sealer to properly coat) Get a paintbrush and dip into the liquid sealer Using the brush dipped in the sealer, proceed to coat the stub (brush back and forth and make sure all wounded areas are covered) Leave the sealer for about an hour to dry Do a quick check around the stub to make sure the sealer covered every space of the wound Repaint any area where the sealer missed the first time. As I mentioned before, you don’t have to apply a sealer on every tree wound, as they can heal naturally.. You may want to try your hands at making your tree sealer.. Trees like these require their wounds to be sealed off as quickly as possible to prevent insects and fungi from penetrating them through the wound.. Another advantage of knowing how to make your tree sealer is that you can quickly make some whenever you want to prune.
Prune to promote plant health Remove dead or dying branches injured by disease, severe insect infestation, animals, storms, or other adverse mechanical damage. Remove branches that rub together. Remove branch stubs Avoid topping trees. Removing large branches leaves stubs that can cause several health problems. It also destroys the plant's natural shape and promotes suckering and the development of weak branch structures.
Pruning and training young trees and shrubs Pruning begins at planting time Pruning is really the best preventive maintenance for young plants.. Young trees pruned improperly or not pruned at all for several years may require heavy pruning to remove bigger branches to prevent trees from becoming deformed.. Shrubs Pruning young shrubs is not as critical as pruning young trees, but take care to use the same principles to encourage good branch structure.. Make pruning cuts so that only branch tissue (wood on the branch side of the collar) is removed.. Trees and shrubs to prune after blooming. Trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year's growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming:. Trees and shrubs to prune before new growth. Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage rather than showy flowers should be pruned in spring, before growth begins:
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Tree saws are available for removing large tree branches.. Also, the branch that you cut back to should have a diameter of at least half that of the branch to be removed.. In shortening a branch or twig, cut it back to a side branch and make the cut 1/2 inch above the bud.. These shrubs should be pruned in later winter to promote vigorous shoot growth in spring.. Rejuvenating broad-leaved evergreen hedges is possible by pruning the hedge back from one-half to one-third of hte hedge height just before spring growth begins.. What tools should be used to trim hedges?. On all roses, consider the cutting of the flowers as a form of pruning.. Always remove branches by cutting to a lateral branch or bud, or back to the base of the rose plant.
Maple trees are beautiful, and they look even better when they’re properly pruned. Luckily, the process is easy to learn. Read more now on Gardener’s Path.
Besides properly cultivating the maple tree and providing preventive care to keep it free of pests and disease, a gardener will need to prune an Acer as it grows and develops.. Even though trimming is a pretty simple process, it may prove to be a bit more complex than it looks to beginners.. And since Acer species ooze sap from wounds more profusely than most other plants, pruning one really does feel like you’re making a living, breathing thing bleed.. There are a couple things you’ll need before you begin the project of cutting back these plants.. With their tough, stout blades and leverage-manipulating handles, loppers are ideal for removing branches too large for hand pruners.. A pruning saw is best used on branches that are too large for loppers, as well as on any competing trunks or leaders that you need to saw away.. When cutting various shoots off of different plants, it’s really important to sterilize your tools in between cuts so any pathogens present don’t hitch a ride to new hosts.. But if your tree is small, young, or may be prone to excessive sap loss for some other reason, then hold off on pruning until summertime.. If any branches that you wish to cut back are rather heavy, utilize the three-cut method by first making a cut one to two feet out from the trunk halfway up into the branch.. Other than one-off pruning sessions of sick, dead, or damaged branches, all of the branches and twigs removed from the tree in one go should make up no more than a third of the plant’s total aboveground growth.. Pruning from the bottom up, on the other hand, makes it all too easy to remove a third of the tree’s growth before you’ve even made it halfway up the trunk.. Pruning an Acer is quite empowering, especially if you’re used to leaving your landscape trees be and letting them do their own thing.. And for more information about growing maple trees in your landscape, check out these guides next:. Product photos via Gardener’s Supply Company, Garrett Wade, NoCry, and Solimo.