Trimming is often one of the most difficult garden tasks. What if I cut too much? What parts do I want to remove? What if I make a mess? All of these are common problems with pruning. However, pruning is the basis for healthy plant growth and flowering. As time goes by, you will definitely need to trim plants. In this article, Savana will show you one quick guide to pruning.

raised garden bed
Pruning is a key part of creating and maintaining beautiful gardens. However, many gardeners avoid pruning because they lack confidence or do not really know how to prune. This guide will explain why you need to trim plants in your garden and how to trim plants perfectly!

Why prune plants?

We trim plants to control their shape and encourage new growth. Pruning actually stimulates the growth of most plants. As gardeners, we can use pruning to:

  • Encourage new and vigorous development
  • Shape plants, trees or shrubs according to our preferences

Over time, the plant grows taller and wider until it reaches the predetermined size of the plant species. When they were young, they put all their energy into growth to maximize the chances of survival and reproduction. They will bloom in large numbers and grow new everywhere.

This is the time to trim to help control and shape it. Help tell plants where you want to grow and reduce the areas you don't want to grow.

As plants, trees and shrubs grow older and larger, they still need to provide food for plants and collect water. This means that they must share more of their resources. This may lead to low production in some parts of the plant.

Pruning can help rejuvenate plants and remove older, less productive growth. Without this pruning, these plants will eventually lose fruit and flowers, and eventually look dull.

Types of pruning

 Depending on the end goal you want to achieve, you have two main trim types. You either want to form a shape or layout in the plant, called "form pruning", or use "maintain pruning" to keep the plant healthy. Let's take a closer look at which trim technique you might want to use based on the results.

1. Formative Pruning 

Formative pruning helps shape plants, trees, or shrubs into specific shapes. Shape pruning is used for fruit trees, pruned plants and younger plants, such as pleached trees. In general, we believe that formative pruning is the removal of a part of a shrub or tree to transfer energy to other areas of the plant.

However, you can use formative pruning to encourage growth where needed. Usually, the place you prune will promote more growth below the pruning, which often surprises new gardeners! By reducing the length of a specific stem, you can help it grow more lateral buds below the incision.

You can help reduce growth and shape plants by moving growth back to the trunk, such as a pleated or standard tree.

2. Maintenance Pruning

Maintenance pruning is used to keep plants healthy, promote fresh growth and ensure that they continue to bloom or bear fruit. Maintenance pruning is usually carried out once a year, depending on the plants and the desired effect.

Compared with formative pruning, maintenance pruning is a "touch" pruning method. If you are a new gardener who wants to learn pruning, it is also the easiest to start!

How to prune: Step by Step Guide

Pruning will help ensure that your plants stay healthy in the garden. Most woody shrubs are pruned when they are dormant in winter, when they are deciduous. Always trim evergreen plants in spring or after flowering. For herbaceous perennials pruned in late winter.

People often worry that pruning will kill plants. It takes more than that to kill most plants. As long as you take the time to check the shape of the plant, there will be no mistakes!

Step 1. Always cut above an outward-facing bud

A simple pruning rule is to prune above the bud (that is, the nodes that will produce flowers or fruits form a certain angle with the bud. You want to cut 2-3 mm above the bud.

Cutting too close may cause the bud to die, and cutting too far may cause the excess material to die.

Step 2. Always cut at a 45-degree angle

For plants with alternate buds, that is, one on each side, they are staggered and cut at a 45 degree angle with the buds.

The reason for cutting away from the angle of the bud is to let any water flow away, so as to avoid soaking the next bud and possibly rotting. It also keeps the cut clean.

Step 3. For opposite buds cut horizontally across

For plants with opposite buds, that is, plants that do not appear alternately like Budleja and Sambucus, trim horizontally between the 2-3 mm buds above them.

Step 4. Remove any crossing, damaged or diseased stems

The first step in pruning is to remove any damaged, dead or diseased stems or branches. These are the first parts to be trimmed, sometimes enough. Below you can see the crossed and rubbed stems, so you need to cut them back to the next healthy stem or branch.

Step 5. For older shrubs, you can rejuvenate them

To help rejuvenate the aging tired shrubs, use a wood saw or a pair of heavy pruning shears to trim the stems to 10-15 cm. Perform this operation during the dormant season, which is usually winter. You can also plant coppice (cut to the ground) shrubs, which are planted for their colorful bark, such as Cornus and Dogwood.

Step 6. For herbaceous perennials prune to 3 inches off the ground in winter

For perennial herbs, these plants grow year after year and die in winter, so one needs to be pruned to return to the ground every winter. In this way, new growth can be carried out in the next spring.

If you follow these steps, you will succeed in trimming, and it is really easy to become a master of trimming.

raised garden bed

What to cut off when pruning plants?

When pruning plants, your goal is to remove any material that could affect the overall health or vitality of the plant. Although plants generally perform well, they become tangled or too productive over time. The plant may start to grow too many lateral branches, which will make the plant crowded. In this case, you need to remove some parts of the plant to maintain air circulation and prevent stem friction of the plant.

The first step in pruning is to remove any material that is:

  • Dead
  • Diseased
  • Crossing/rubbing
  • Overgrown/out of habit

Keep all trim cuts neat and at an angle to the next bud or leaf.

This is sometimes referred to as pruning "4D". Death, illness, injury and the last category is "insanity", that is, the wrong shape or position.

What is hard pruning?

Hard pruning is the place where you may need to prune 3/4 of the whole plant growth. It is called hard pruning because you sometimes prune a lot of plants back to the ground. It may feel cruel, but sometimes this is the only way. Next year, the plants will return with greater vitality.

Deciduous plants are usually hard pruned in winter, and evergreen plants are usually pruned in early spring. Hard pruning can regenerate plants, especially when older plants grow taller and lose lower leaves or shrubs stop flowering.

Sometimes you need to cut shrubs and plants back to the ground in order to effectively restart them. Remember that the plant still has its root ball to feed large or weedy shrubs. Therefore, by removing 75% of the growth, this means that all excess energy will be used for new growth!

Pruning Techniques Explained

99% of plants use the same pruning technique, and it is very simple. You always want to trim the buds or main stems back outward.

However, I think many people are afraid of pruning, because they feel that they have been feeding and caring for a plant, and then cut some of it. Believe me, you are helping the plants. Then pruning will stimulate a large number of plants to bloom and restore plant vitality. It's like giving most plants energy drinks!

To trim effectively, you need to be willing to try and sharp and clean pruning shears. They don't need to be the most expensive, but keeping them clean and sharp will ensure a cleaner trim. This in turn leads to better results.

When should plants be pruned in a year?

Generally, plants need to be pruned in early spring or when they are dormant. Even if you end up pruning at the wrong time of the year, don't worry. You are unlikely to kill your plants. The worst case may be that it will not blossom and bear fruit that year!

When to prune evergreen plants

Specimen shrubs are pruned in early spring so that they can recover in spring/summer. This is especially true for evergreen plants that grow slowly, such as azaleas. Examples of evergreen plants include Ilex aquifolium, heather, azalea, etc. You can also prune hedgerows that are more elastic than evergreen trees in late summer to obtain cleaner winter pruning. Evergreen trees leave leaves in winter.

When to prune deciduous plants

Pruning during winter dormancy (except cherry trees, which can only be pruned in spring due to infection and silver leaves). Examples of deciduous plants include drunken fish, apple trees, cotinus coggygria (tobacco shrub), etc. Deciduous plants shed their leaves in winter.

When to prune herbaceous perennials

You can trim perennial herbs in late autumn or late winter according to your preference. The advantage of removing perennial herbs is that for 90% of them, you just need to cut them back to the ground. Herbal pruning is the easiest group to handle.

How to find out when to prune plants

If you are not sure when to trim a plant, Google search usually provides some guidance

There are various subcategories for pruning clematis, wisteria, roses, etc. These plants have very specific pruning systems. Maybe this is the source of fear of pruning! If you have any questions, please consult online. The technology is the same.

Despite this concern, if you are not sure, there are some simple rules that can help you determine when to trim.

Pruning for garden design

Trimming can help your plants, trees, and shrubs stay in a better shape for garden design. By maintaining good trim, you can help influence their shape and habits. This means that you can control certain shrubs and trees to determine their overall shape. Whether you want to trim shrubs, such as apple trees or standard laurels; Trimming will enable you to obtain various shapes.

It's worth remembering how much time you want your garden to take up. Pruning may require considerable effort, depending on how well you control garden plants. You may trim and trim around the clock to maintain appearance.

raised garden bed

Caring for plants & tools after pruning

A good tip after pruning is to always cover and make sure the plants are well watered. This ensures that all new growth has access to nutrients and water. You don't need to feed the plants after pruning. You don't want to make them too comfortable. Gardeners often overfeed the plants, which means that the pruning results are less vigorous, because the plants are too comfortable to grow extra.

Tips for looking after plants once you’ve pruned them:

  • Cover plant base with peat free compost
  • Ensure adequate watering of plants
  • Use liquid feed such as shicao tea for hungry plants such as roses
  • Compost all newspaper clippings or dry kindling/kindling
  • Clean your pruning
  • Sharpen your pruning shears

It is important to ensure that tools are cleaned after trimming and that they remain sharp. It may be tempting to put pruning shears back into a draw, but take 5 minutes to clean and sharpen them so you can prune them for years.


There is a simple trim guide. This not only helps keep your garden tidy, but also helps keep plants in optimal condition. With a little pruning, you can start practicing pruning shrubs without fear.




December 23, 2022

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.