Do you like to get a haircut? Or do you dread the trip to the barber or stylist?
How do you think the grass feels when it’s time to mow? What about plants when it’s time for pruning?
Although it may seem counterintuitive (that’s a fancy word that means “the opposite of what you expect”), the best way to get many plants to grow is by cutting them back at certain times of the year. We call these occasional “haircuts” pruning.
“Pruning” is a careful, selective process that involves cutting off parts of a plant to improve its shape and spark new growth. Exactly what type of pruning is necessary depends on the particular plant.
Some plants — like roses and other flowering plants — only need dead or weak parts removed. Other plants — like ornamental grasses — benefit from being completely cut back to the ground.
If you’re wondering whether pruning hurts a plant, the truth is that pruning does wound a plant. However, injuring a plant by pruning doesn’t have to hurt the plant’s overall health.
In fact, pruning stimulates a plant’s natural healing process, which promotes healthy growth. Flowering plants usually produce more flowers after pruning. Likewise, fruit trees often produce larger and healthier fruit after pruning.
Plants have an incredible ability to heal themselves. Immediately after pruning, cells around the pruned area mobilize to seal the wound and prevent the spread of infection.
This process improves the overall health of the plant and paves the way for future growth.
Sometimes plants need to be pruned for safety reasons. For example, trees that grow too tall can interfere with power lines, creating a danger to people nearby.
Utility workers regularly prune trees along power line paths to make sure they don’t grow too close to the lines.
One way you can prune wisely is to make sure your pruning tools are sharp. Clean, precise cuts will help plants heal faster.
Some of the pruning tools you may need include hand pruners, lopping shears, hedge clippers and pruning saws. Larger trees may require pole pruners or chain saws. Small plants may only require the cheapest of pruning tools: your fingers!
Knowing when to prune which plants is probably the most difficult part of gardening. Most plants should be pruned when they are dormant (inactive).
For many plants, this is during late fall, winter and early spring. However, this is not true for all plants.
Some plants — like spring blooming trees and shrubs — start getting new buds as soon as the old ones fall off. These types of plants should be pruned just after flowering. Still other plants require continual pruning to ensure healthy growth.
So how do you know when to prune a plant? And what happens if you prune a plant at the wrong time?
Don’t worry! Pruning is rarely fatal, even when done at the wrong time. Most plants will recover in the long run.
The best thing you can do before pruning is to identify the plants you want to prune. Do some Internet research about them, or visit a local plant nursery or gardening center to ask questions.
Don’t take out the pruning shears until you’re sure it’s the right time to prune!