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How to Shape, Trim, and Prune Your Shrubs

Pruning and trimming shrub not only makes them attractive, but supports their health and stimulates the growth of leaves and flowers. Pruning takes away dead, weak or damaged branches where pests and diseases can shelter. Here are ways to prune a shrub or bush:

 

First Things

The first thing to do is make sure that instruments are sharp. Dull blades crush limbs, and put the plant at risk for disease or infestation. Most gardeners only need pruning shears or a pruning saw to thin bushes and shrubs.

 

Another thing to consider is the natural habit of the shrub. This means the shape it would take if it was allowed to grow wild. Some shrubs grow as compact spheres, while others are layered, cushion-shaped, vase-shaped, sprawling or fountain-like. It’s a good idea to let the shrub’s natural shape tell the gardener how to thin it.

 

Types of pruning are thinning, shearing and heading back. Shearing takes a few inches off the top and sides of the shrub to shape it. Thinning takes away weak or dead branches.

 

Thinning

Thinning can be done at any time of the year. If the bush or shrub is thick, push aside the outer branches or crouch under the base, and look up into the shrub if it is upright. Look for shoots or branches that are weak, dead or straggly and prune them close to the ground or where they join a larger stem. Find branches that rub against each other, and remove the thinner one. If limbs look like they’re turning into the center of the shrub, remove them. Limbs should move outward. Removing these weak limbs allows for better air circulation and neatens the shrub.

 

If thinning is done regularly, this can be done in a few minutes. If the shrub is big and hasn’t been thinned in a while, the gardener may be pruning for over an hour and end up with a large pile of brush. A shrub that’s been sheared can also be thinned but very judiciously. Remove only a few limbs at a time.

 

Shearing

Shearing can be done with electric hedge trimmers and can be a faster job than thinner. Shearing does not take the natural habit of the shrub or bush into account as much as thinning does. It is used to force a shrub into a shape that fits the gardener’s idea of what they want in the landscape.

 

When a gardener properly shears a shrub, they cut off some or nearly all of the new growth at least once a year. This depends on how fast the shrub grows and the shape the gardener wants it to take. In areas with mild winters, shearing can be done year round. In places where winters are cold, shrubs and bushes can be sheared in all seasons save late summer or early fall. Shearing can stimulate new growth that can be killed during a hard frost.

 

Heading Back

Heading back is a type of pruning where the end of a long, unbranched stem is cut off to encourage side shoots. This makes the plant bushier.

A well-maintained yard can make your yard and landscape look beautiful and healthy. Use the above tips when you start your yard maintance.