Pruning plants involves cutting certain areas of the branch, leaves, or stems to redirect its growth. Although it is most commonly associated with avid gardeners, it is also practiced among lawn landscapers as well. Pruning offers many benefits in the care of trees, shrubs, and perennials to promote growth. It also removes dead wood and other dying parts, which prevent pests from invading and infesting the garden.
Other benefits include:
- Stimulates growth. When you remove the growing tip of a branch, the buds along the branch can sprout, due to a hormone secreted by the growing tip of plants that keeps buds from sprouting. When you remove the tip, this hormone action is stopped. Doing this has proven to create fuller plants.
- Controls the size. Pruning to control the size of plants is typically done to younger and older trees and shrubs, as opposed to growing plants. Some plants will respond better to pruning than others; for instance, evergreens are fairly difficult to prune, save for the boxwood and yew varieties. Be careful when pruning shrubs that bloom in the spring, as you may end up cutting off flowers for the next spring if you prune anytime other than right when they bloom.
- Controls the shape. Sometimes, shrubs may be shaped to create a visual aesthetic or to control growth of particularly wily plants. Topiary, which is a decorative pruning technique, can be used to shape trees and shrubs into interesting forms. This is especially used with weeping plants, which may contain stray branches that sprout up instead of down.
- Rejuvenates the shrub. Some shrubs, like lilacs, azaleas, and forsythias, respond well to renewal pruning, which is a removal of 1/3 of the branches every year. Doing this helps remove older, less healthy growth and stimulates new growth in the shrubs.
- Promotes air movement. Some plants, like roses, can benefit from pruning in order to deter fungal and bacterial diseases that thrive within humid, clumped areas. Pruning opens up “holes” in the canopy (top of the tree or shrub) and allows air to move throughout the leaves.
- There are generally three reasons why pruning is done:
- Sculpting for decorative reasons
- Shaping to build strength and resistance against changing or extreme weather conditions
- Keeping plants healthy
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t prune unless you have to. Most plants are able to grow perfectly fine without the help of gardening shears. However, high maintenance plants, such as rose bushes or fruit trees, will require more attention when pruning.
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