man pruning apple tree in his garden

What is pruning? Well, to some it’s really nothing, but to a horticulturist, it’s an important procedure that maintains and encourages proper plant growth.

However, pruning is not just for the big-word people, it’s also for the backyard enthusiast who just wants to improve their trees.

If that sounds like you, in this article, we will cover a variety of information on pruning.

So keep reading to find out more.

Why Should I Prune and What Is Pruning?

First and foremost, you want your tree, shrub, or plant to be healthy and look great. If that’s the case, pruning is practically a necessity and not a nuisance.

So, what is pruning?

Proper pruning encourages safety by removing low-growing branches which might obscure incoming traffic or impede moving vehicles. How about removing broken/split branches before they come falling down on a person, house, or car? What about whip branches that love to kick back upon an unsuspecting passerby?

Pruning takes care of all that, but that’s just the beginning.

Overgrown and neglected plants are alterable into multi-trunked trees if the lower limbs are removed. This might be a consciously better idea over digging out the shrub and planting another.

Pruning also allows you to encourage plant growth in the direction of your choosing. Each cut that you make will prevent growth in one direction and influence it into another.

If you want to prevent undesirable growth, pruning is for you. Cutting wayward branches, thinning outgrowth, removing suckers and water sprouts will aesthetically improve your tree by all means.

Plants of all kinds are susceptible to disease, rot, and rubbing damage, thus pruning them will improve their overall health. And if you want to increase your blossom and fruit yield, pruning can help you do that. It might be a tedious chore, considering the level of involvement, but you get what you give.

When Should I Prune?

Even though pruning at the “wrong” time will not damage your trees and plants, it can still diminish blossom and fruit. In premise, spring-flowering plants should be pruned after the flowers fade.

Summer-blooming plants should be pruned in the winter or early spring (before new growth). In locations of harsh winter, summer pruning encourages growth before the cold has settled.

However, this advice is only pertinent to areas in which climate consists of four distinct seasons. In warm-winter locations, timing will depend on the native climate for the plant.

If you’re having doubts about when to prune your plant, speak to a tree pruning specialist who will be able to assist you.

Growth Bud Definitions

Pruning only makes definitive sense when you comprehend the location and role of a growth bud. Depending on the bud and the cut, the growth will be directly affected. If your pruning is to have a result that you expect, you need to learn the difference growth bud definitions.


A terminal bud is a type of bud that grows at the top of a shoot, thus causing it to grow longer. The buds product hormones that move throughout the shoot, which leads to other growth bud inhibition. Isn’t that something?


A lateral bud is a type of bud that grows on the side of a shoot, and rises to the side, making a plant bushy. The buds will remain dormant until the shoot has reached a certain length, in which the influence of the terminal bud is diminished or it has been pruned-off.

If you remove a lateral bud, you direct growth to the terminal bud, thus making the shoot even longer.


A latent bud is a type of bud that is dormant below the bark. If a branch is cut or broken above a latent bud, the bud is likely to create a new shoot to mend the wood that has been removed.

If you need to repair a plant, look for latent buds and cut right above them.

The Four Types of Pruning Cuts

When it comes to actually prune, there are four distinct types of cuts. Each of which leads towards a certain result. For a cut that involves cutting above a bud, angle it at 45 degrees with the lowest cut point opposite of the bud, and even with it.

For more definitive results, try out one of these four cuts.


Pinching is the easiest of the four. You can do it without even cutting. You pinch the terminal bud and pull it off. This will prevent the stem from overthrowing and will encourage lateral growth.

This is usually done on a yearly basis, and mostly on vegetables and perennials. You can also do it to direct the growth of shrubs to provide a more even shape.


Heading means that you are cutting further back on the shoot than you would for the pinching. In premise, if a lateral bud has grown a leaf, you cut right above the leaf.

A hand-held pruner should do the job, and it will stimulate the buds below the cut, thus leading to dense growth.


Shearing is a cut in which you create a hedge or bus with a specific form, and it’s a form of heading with not cutting back the bud.

Because sheared have many lateral buds, you will have to cut near a bud. Shearing will stimulate lots of new growth, so it done often. Considering this method is adamant about cutting through leaves, you should emphasize the cut on small-leaved plants.


Thinning reduces the bulk on a plant with minimal potential for regrowth. Each of the cuts will remove an entire branch or stem, either to the origin or to a joint point on the branch.

Because many lateral buds are removed, you are unlikely to end up with a cluster of undesirable shoots. Many beginners make a heading cut instead of a thinning cut, so keep that in mind.

Loppers, hand-held pruners, or a pruning saw will do the job.

How to Prune A Shrub?

You should prune a young shrub very gently to make growth fuller and dense. With a pair of hand pruners, trim the long, unbranched stems by cutting above a bud (heading).

When selecting the bud tip to trim to, keep in mind that the new branch will grow out of the bud direction.

As the shrub develops, thin out the rubbing, weak, wayward and old branches where they merge with another. This will open up the middle for increased sunlight, which will keep the branches healthy and stimulated.

If you think cutting into a plant that looks perfectly fine is obscure, it certainly is. Even pruning experts can get confused about the right time for making cuts, fearing that they will prevent next year’s flowers and stunt the growth.

But once you understand how a plant responds to pruning, you will be pleasantly surprised how a well-determined cut can solve plant problems.

How Can I Divide Plants?

You should divide late perennials in the spring, early perennials in the fall, but well before the thermometer is down below.

You want roots to recover before the ground is frozen. This method will work on perennials that have fleshy and fibrous roots, such as rudbeckia, asters, hostas, phlox. A plant with a tuberous root, such as rhizomes or peonies should be cut with a knife.

You should divide your perennials every 3 to 6 years to thin clumping varieties, such as the daylily, which will bloom from late spring to late summer. In premise, you should separate spring and summer-blooming perennials in the summer of before the early fall frost. A fall bloomer is best dived in the spring so that they can devote their nourishment to leave and roto growth.

Before you divide your plants, water the mother plant for a couple of days before you dig it. If possible, wait for a foggy/cloudy day to dig, because hot weather stresses plants out.

For plant dividing strategies, search up your exact plants and prefix dividing in your Google search.

Pruning Done Right

Now that you know what is pruning and why it matters, you are well on your way to taking your love for nature to the next level.

Even though it might seem like you are doing more harm than good at the moment of cutting, in reality, you are doing the plants a huge favor. Not only will they grow better, but they will thank you for it with an increased yield of flowers and fruit.


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