Pruning shrubs

A shrub will rarely die if left unpruned, but it is desirable to control its size and shape. Such pruning is basic for all shrubs.


A gardener’s advice

1. 3 tools are used for pruning: pruning shears for removing shoots and small stems; long-handled lopping shears for larger stems; and a pruning saw for large branches. A sharp knife may also be needed for trimming around large wounds.

2. Most shrubs require little pruning in the first few years. At first, confine pruning to removing crossing branches that spoil the plant’s shape, along with damaged or unhealthy branches.

3. On some shrubs growth may be improved if light is let into the centre by cutting away old branches. And some shrubs will bear larger – but generally fewer – flowers if they are pruned each year. To sum up, prune selectively.

4. When shortening branches, cut just above an outward-facing bud or shoot. Cut diagonally, parallel with the angle of the bud or shoot and never straight across. The new branches will expand and open the shrub.

5. When removing entire side branches, cut a little away from the trunk or main branch. This minimises the area of the cut (compared to cutting flush) and the wound heals faster. If the branches are large enough to need a pruning saw, rather than lopping shears, undercut the branch first to avoid tearing the bark.