How to Prune Shrubs and Bushes
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How to Prune Shrubs and Bushes

This easy guide shows how to prune shrubs and bushes creating healthy lush plants.  Flowering shrubs are an important part of any garden giving your space a sense of form and a beautiful backdrop for your other plants.

Pruning back bushes and shrubs promotes bushier growth.  When plants are young it is tempting to leave them alone to let them grow as quickly as possible but by giving young plants a little pruning, they will produce more growth.

When to Prune Flowering Shrubs

Flowering shrubs should be pruned after they have finished flowering, usually in the late autumn or fall unless they are winter flowering. 

If you have moved to a new home and are not sure about what type of shrub it is just cut out any dead branches then leave the rest.  Over the next year you will see the plants cycle and can trim it back after it has flowered. 

Alternatively, take a picture and take it to your local nursery.  They may be able to give you some idea as to what type of plant it is.

Tools and Equipment Needed

  • Loppers
  • Pruners
  • Gardening Gloves and Long Sleeves – Essential for preventing scratches. These long gardening gloves cover the forearm. Find them at Amazon. (Paid link)

Instructions

Time needed: 1 hour.

Pruning Shrubs and Bushes

  1. Assessing Your Shrub

    First stand back from your shrub and asses how far you want to prune it back.  If it is stressed it may be wise to cut it back as much as a ½ of the plant.  Otherwise a ¼ to a 1/3 of the plant is enough to keep its shape and encourage new growth in the spring.

  2. Removing Dead Branches

    Next look for any dead branches then cut them as close to the ground or central branch as possible on an angle so water will run off the cut when it rains.  This will help to prevent disease.

    Dead branches are cut close to the ground.

  3. Removal of Large Branches

    For a branch width greater than an inch (2.5cm) you will need to use a hand saw.  Anything under that can be cut off with loppers.  The hand saw can be difficult to get into the middle of the bush however there are narrow saws made for this purpose such as this one from Amazon.

  4. Reducing the Overall Size

    Once you have cut and pulled out all of the dead branches work your way around the bush with the loppers cutting off the larger branches on an angle just above new growth or a bud.

  5. Tidying the Shrub

    Next go around the bush with the pruners snipping off any dead twigs and generally tidying up the overall shape of the bush.

    Cut just above the new growth when pruning.

  6. Assess Your Work

    Stand back at regular intervals to assess your work.  If the bush looks lopsided just take a little more off until you are happy with it.
    Just remember; it will grow back in the spring so don’t be too worried if it looks like a cyclone has hit it!  Some people do have a better eye for pruning bushes into elegant shapes than others.

Tip

The smaller twigs and any greenery can be put in your compost bin.  Cut up the rest then let it dry out for kindling for your fire or grill.

If you have arthritic hands ratchet pruners will give you more strength with less effort. You can find them at Amazon. (Paid link)

To Save or Print this guide on how to prune shrubs and bushes, click the button below for the PDF File.

Looking for more gardening guides? Try this guide to gardening in dry conditions, how to prune raspberries or transplanting bamboo.

If you are interested in growing vegetables try this Homesteading guide.

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