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How to Prune Shrubs and Trees: A Simple Guide

Pruning shrubs and trees regularly is important for their overall health and wellbeing. However, there’s a wrong way and a right way to prune.

If you don’t do it correctly, you’ll experience issues down the road that will increase your workload. Your trees and shrubs could even begin to wither and die.

image - How to Prune Shrubs and Trees: A Simple Guide
How to Prune Shrubs and Trees: A Simple Guide

For the best results, read our simple guide to learn how to prune shrubs and trees!

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When Should You Prune?

The best time to prune trees is when the plant is dormant in the colder, winter months. This is because you’ll be pruning it before it starts expending more energy through new growth.

If your trees or shrubs flower in the spring, you’ll know it’s time to prune them as the flowers start to fade for the same reason.

These rules of thumb for when to trim trees are good for any areas where you have four seasons. If you live in warmer areas, base your pruning times on the plant’s native climate.

What Tools Do You Use?

You need to choose tools the match the size of the branch that you’re trying to prune. Here is a list of some of the most common pruning tools:

Hand pruners

These small, light tools are good for stems and branches up to 1/4″ in diameter. Bypass pruners are usually better than anvil pruners because they’re designed to avoid crushing the stem.


Loppers are for larger branches, and they also come with long handles so that you can reach higher. It’s important that you purchase loppers with lightweight handles to reduce the strain of holding them.

Pruning Saws

If your loppers can’t handle a branch, the next best tool is pruning saws. They’re also good for reaching branches that are too high if you purchase a pole saw.

Hedge Shears

If you have bushy hedges, then this is the right tool to use. Their blades make large, broad cuts that help quickly shape hedges and topiary.

How Do You Prune?

Now that you know what tools to use, it’s important that you know how to prune tree branches the right way when it’s time to prune and shape your plants. First, you never want to remove more than 25% of a tree’s branches at a time, or you can kill it.

You also want to avoid “topping” the tree, which means simply cutting off the top portions. Not only does this look bad, but your tree will begin to grow even more shoots to try and compensate.

The lack of shade and nutrients and multiple open wounds will also leave it susceptible to disease and decay.

Instead of pruning indiscriminately, find the branch collar, or the visible swelling that is near the base of any large branch. You’ll want to cut just outside of that branch collar.

The reason is that this enables the tree to seal the wound quickly and easily, making it less prone to diseases after you make the cut.

How to Prune Shrubs and Trees the Right Way

Knowing how to prune shrubs and trees the right way is the difference between a healthy, thriving plant and a dying one. Focus on using the right tools, pruning at the right time, and using the right technique, and your plant will thank you.

Want to learn more ways to keep your home exterior looking beautiful? Keep reading our blog for more tips and tricks!