Shrubs and foundation plantings that have outgrown their location may
be encroaching on walkways, doorways, and even covering up windows.
Pruning to maintain their size and shape will keep them in bounds.
Overgrown shrubs in the garden or landscape can be unsightly and out
of proportion with surrounding plantings and buildings. Pruning helps
improve their appearance in the landscape and the appearance of the home.
Developing good plant structure begins while the plant is still
young. This is especially important for fruit trees to allow sunlight
and air circulation into inner branches. Good structure also helps
support a heavy fruit load. For other trees a strong structure
prevents damage from winter storms.
Newly planted or transplanted trees are pruned to compensate for the
loss of roots when the roots are dug out or disturbed. If there is
too much leafy growth on top the roots can't support it and the tree wilts.
Blooming and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs should be pruned to
increase the quality and yields of flowers and fruits. Thinning out
extra branches from the tree or shrub will result in bigger flowers
and larger fruit.
Pruning helps keep plants healthy. Dead, broken, diseased, or
crossing branches, water sprouts, and suckers all adversely affect
the overall health of the plant. Dead, broken, or diseased branches
should be removed to prevent disease from entering the tree or shrub.
Crossing branches rub, causing wounds to both branches. Water sprouts
are vertical growths that grow perpendicular to the horizontal
branches. They do not produce fruit and should be removed. Suckers
crowd the tree or shrub. They often arise from a grafted rootstock
which is often a different variety and when the suckers start to
grow, they will not be the same desired plant.
Pruning is also done to train a plant into a desired form or shape.
Decorative pruning and training methods include espalier, topiary,
Older trees and shrubs can be given a new lease on life with pruning.
Some plants respond to drastic pruning well, but others don't. Old
lilacs that are no longer blooming well benefit greatly from drastic
pruning. Choose several younger trunks to leave which will become the
new plant. Cut down to the ground all sucker growth as well as older
stems that are not blooming well. This drastic pruning will
rejuvenate the old plant and it will bloom well once again.
When it comes to pruning, the right tools and equipment can make a
big difference. My favorite pruning shears are a pair of ratchet-cut
pruners. What I like about the pruners is how easy and comfortable
they are to use. The ratchet action works like a car jack and allows
anyone regardless of hand strength to easily cut through stems and
branches. I use them for all sorts of pruning tasks from deadheading
flowers to trimming trees, shrubs, and roses.