As homeowners, we often associate pruning trees as a technical task reserved for professional arborists, but pruning our shrubs is something we can do with our trimmers on the weekend. Pruning shrubs is not only a skill set that can come in handy but doing it properly increases the serviceable life of your plants. And the flip side is also true, poor pruning can shorten the life of your shrubs.
Choosing when to prune your shrubs changes its growth habits and the flowering of your shrubs.
- When you prune after flower buds are set for the year, you reduce flowering.
- When you prune immediately after a growth spurt, you are reducing the plant’s ability to grow big.
- When you prune to remove entire canes of a shrub (renewal pruning), you are allowing more canes to grow up into the middle.
- When you prune the entire shrub back to the ground (rejuvenation pruning), you are allowing the plant to start over, but with an established root system.
All of these have their place, and it is the job of the person pruning to know the best pruning type to accomplish the desired result!
Proper pruning also requires the proper tools. Let’s touch on one tool that is the most common tool in the shed and another that should be: the hedge shear and the hand pruner. The hedge shear, while convenient, can cause unintended damage when overused. Shrubs sheared every year form a dense outer shell of foliage. If you walk up to a heavily sheared plant and pull apart the outer shell to look inside, you may find that there is not much underneath. In technical terms, that shrub has a small “live crown”. With that comes less ability to remain healthy.
Hand pruners are a great alternative. When you prune with hand pruners, you can “poke holes” in that outer shell, allowing light to penetrate and to support growth through the entire crown of the shrub. You can also cut out single stems in a renewal pruning, and head back long stems to shape a shrub. This takes longer than shears but can increase the lifespan of your shrubs by two or three-fold.
There are many more aspects to shrub pruning that would take some reading and practice to learn. The pros at Sargent’s are always available to take care of it for you if you run into situations that you feel are more than you want to tackle.
To see our general manager, Jay Maier, discuss tree pruning, head to our YouTube channel here!