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To Prune or not to Prune?

Pruning is crucial for the health and growth of trees and shrubs and can be a confusing and daunting task for many homeowners when it comes to maintaining their landscape. Many people aren’t sure what to do or when to do it. However, proper pruning is crucial to keep trees and shrubs healthy and visually appealing. This fact sheet will provide you with the necessary information on equipment, principles, and techniques required for most pruning jobs. Although the discussion revolves around pruning ornamental trees and shrubs, many of the same principles apply to specialised procedures such as those for tree fruit, small fruit, and roses.


Table Of Content

  • When should we prune?
  • How much pruning is needed?
  • Must-have tools for pruning
  • Caring for your tools

When should we prune?

The timing of pruning is extremely important and depends on the type of plant and the desired outcome. When deciding when to prune, there are a few simple factors that need to be considered.

Basic considerations for pruning:

Dead, damaged, or dying wood:
Wood of this type can be pruned anytime and should be removed as soon as it is evident.

Spring-flowering trees and shrubs:
These should be pruned right after they bloom since they bloom on wood that was produced during the previous growing season.

Summer-flowering trees and shrubs:
These should be pruned in late winter or spring before new growth begins. Their flowers are borne on wood produced that same year.

Trees and shrubs without flowers or fruit:
These should be pruned when they are dormant, usually in late winter or spring, before growth has started. This includes most deciduous shrubs and shade trees, most needled evergreens, and many of the "non-flowering" broadleaved evergreens. Pruning when deciduous trees are dormant is especially helpful because it allows one to see the form and structure of the tree without the leafy canopy. Some trees "bleed" after pruning. Although this causes no harm, pruning these trees can be delayed until their leaves are fully expanded.

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How much pruning is needed?

Most trees and shrubs benefit from light to moderate pruning every year or every few years. However, most needled evergreens require infrequent, minimal pruning. Proper tools are important for effective pruning and maintaining the beauty of your landscaping.

Must-have tools for pruning:

Pruning Shears:

Pruning shears are essential tools for trimming shrubs, flowers, vines, and small growth on trees. These hand-held tools can cut branches and twigs up 19mm thick. There are three types of pruning shears: anvil, bypass, and ratchet. The most popular of the three is the bypass pruner which operates like scissors and is ideal for growing stems. Anvil pruners have a straight blade that uses a splitting action and are suitable for dry branches and stems. Ratchet pruners are similar to anvil pruners, but they have a mechanism that cuts in stages, making them a good choice for those who don’t want to strain their wrists.



Loppers are ideal for cutting branches that are up to 64mm thick. They are particularly useful for pruning fruit trees, nut trees, and vines. Loppers look similar to a pair of hand shears, but their blades are thicker, and the handle is much longer. They are available in anvil, bypass, and ratchet styles.

Pruning Saws:

Pruning saws, available in a variety of styles, can be used to cut branches ranging in diameter from 38mm to 127mm.


Hedge Shears:

Hedge shears are ideal for trimming hedges, small shrubs, evergreens, and deadheading perennials. They can be used on any hedge shrub and cut branches up to 57mm thick.

Pole Pruners:

If you need to reach dead wood in trees or to do light pruning, a pole pruner (tree pruner) is an essential tool. Pole pruners are versatile and can be used on any tree to cut through branches up to 32mm in diameter. The best part is that most pole pruners can reach 2.5m or more, which can eliminate the need for a ladder in many cases. It’s also important to note that there are electric pole pruners available, too.

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Caring for your tools:

It's important to maintain the proper working order of your tools. Keeping them clean is a top priority as tree sap can cause obstructions and tree diseases can spread from tree to tree. You should always carry a rag with you to wipe down the blades between uses. If you have been pruning diseased branches, make sure to clean the blade with alcohol before moving on to another plant.



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