Pruning tips and techniques

Published on July 25th 2020
Pruning serves both aesthetic and practical ends and is designed to maintain the health and vigour of your plants and to reveal their best qualities. This is why you need to consider pruning certain plants in your garden.
Pruning entails the removal of any part of a plant and is particularly applicable to trees, shrubs, and roses. It is thus necessary to appreciate and study the requirements and habits of the plants to be pruned. However, in all pruning, there are a number of guiding principles which should be kept in mind.
A piece of wood

Check your gear

Before you start your pruning spree, have a look in your tool shed or amongst your tools to see which pruning tools you have available and whether they are still sharp and clean. Give them a good wash and oil before you start pruning and ensure that you have the right tool available for the pruning job that you plan to do. Have a look at this article for a bit more in-depth focus on the different types of pruning tools.
A bird sitting on top of a tree

Make a clean cut

Living cells are concentrated just below the bark in the greenish area - try not to do damage to these cells as the healing of your cut and development of new growth depend on them. Ragged edges and torn stems will also make the plant more prone to infections.
A small bird perched on a tree branch

Cut just above a node or healthy bud

The energy of the plant will be diverted to this area and this is also where the growth cells are most concentrated. Start your cut opposite to and level with the base of the bud and slant it slightly upward in order to finish the cut just above the bud.
A drawing of a person

Determine the growth direction

After pruning, the growth reaction will be strongest in the uppermost buds left over after pruning. If you plan to prune for new growth, it is important to make the cut above a bud facing in the direction the new shoot is required to grow.
A lizard on a branch

Correct cutting at the base of shoots and branches

If you are thinning out, it is important to remove unwanted branches or shoots at their base or at a junction with a larger branch. It is important to make the cut flush with the stem or bark and not to leave any remaining stubs. Remaining stubs will not heal properly and encourage pests and diseases. It is also important to remove tangled branches to allow for light and air to reach the plant.
A basket filled with blue and green bowl

A few more tips

  • Always remove the 3 D’s: dead, diseased or damaged wood
  • Make sure all branches have access to light by opening the center
  • Make a small number of big cuts rather than a big number of small cuts
  • When pruning large branches, first cut off the bulk of the branch before making the final cut flush with the trunk
  • Timing of pruning is important as it affects both the growth and health of a plant
  • Always ensure that your pruning tools are razor-sharp and clean!
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