Weekend Project: Pruning Shrubs

Fall is a great time to tackle pruning the overgrown bushes around your yard. Many people don’t know the basic techniques that should be used when cutting down shrubs–so here are a few guidelines to remember as you begin trimming your own:

1. Cut out dead and damaged branches.

Begin by removing dead or damaged branches with a pruning shear. Try to make cuts that are clean, not jagged, as you do this. You can use an anvil pruner or a bypass lopper for nice, sharp cuts on your branches. You may need a chainsaw for larger branches.

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2. Where to cut

Prune the branch right above the “branch collar” — the part of the branch that has a ring of bumpy tissue at the junction of the branch and the main trunk. These little bumps have lots of plant growth cells that will give the branch a better chance of recovering.

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Cut the branch on a slant–about 45 degrees if you can (see below). Doing this allows rain to slide right off the branch, rather than puddling up and creating a chance of disease on the branch.

Cut at a forty-five degree angle.

 3. Use the “heading back” technique.

The Sunset blog says that heading back is the most effective way to trim shrubs. They say:

“In most cases, the lateral bud has already grown a leaf, and you make the cut right above the leaf. Usually done with hand-held pruners, heading stimulates the buds just below the cut, encouraging dense growth. Heading is an aggressive approach for when you’re shaping certain small shrubs and flowering perennials.”

4. Evergreens

Follow the same instructions as above when trimming your evergreens. Late fall and early winter are an especially great time to trim evergreen plants such as juniper, cypress, pine, and cedar. Save your trimmings to use for holiday decorations!

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