Summer Pruning Tips & Techniques

A few minutes of pruning is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your garden. It stimulates growth and maintains the size and shape of plants, shrubs and trees. However, certain types of plants call for specific types of pruning techniques to keep them healthy and strong. If ignored or pruned incorrectly, plants can be severely damaged or die.

Prevent the worst from happening to your favorite plants and flowers by following these pruning tips and techniques that'll give you a garden that thrives.

Pruning 101:

How much you need to prune depends on how fast the tree or plant is growing and how crowded the branches are. A good starting point is to remove weak, damaged and dead stems from the plant.

If you're uncertain whether a branch is dead or alive, take your fingernail and scrape the bark. A healthy, living branch will appear green below the bark, so don't be afraid to cut; your mistakes will grow back. A dead branch will appear leafless, gray or brown and will be visibly dry; while other branches have green leaves.

It's best to use an anvil pruner for these purposes as it delivers easy and accurate cutting. An anvil pruner is best used on tough, mature or dead wood because the design works more like a blade on a chopping block.

Pruning Techniques:

  • Thinning: Thinning removes stems and branches where they split from the trunk. To thin a shrub or tree, you will need a pair of lopping shears. This helps preserve the natural shape of the plant. Lopping shears have a scissor-like design that allows for thicker cutting with minimal effort. Crowded plants usually need to be thinned to eliminate congestion and shape younger plants.

  • Shearing: Shearing is the process of creating formal hedges with precise, sharp-edged and even sides. This is typically done by using hedge trimmers or shears for hedges and perennials.

  • Day-to-Day Pruning: This is the simplest method of pruning. All you need is a pair of shears to trim back stems. No matter which pruning technique you're practicing, always make sure the cut is smooth, clean and sharp. Also, try to cut at a 45-degree angle, to prevent water buildup from collecting in the cut.

What to Prune in the Summer:

Pruning during the right season is crucial because pruning during the wrong season could potentially leave your plant susceptible to disease and fungus.

Plants that are best suited for summer pruning include azaleas, lilacs and rhododendrons, as well as roses. However, avoid pruning dormant plants such as fruit trees at this time.