The different pruning techniques and why every gardener should know them


There are a variety of reasons why you may want to prune your plants or trees, from keeping them a certain shape or size, to promoting fuller growth and more buds. But before you start cutting, take the time to learn about the different types about size and how they can give different results.

How to prune by pinching

Pinching involves using two fingers to remove the head of a plant to promote larger growth. When the stem and top leaf are pinched, it signals the plant to bud more stems and leaves to compensate. As a result, the leaves will become fuller to capture more sunlight and grow additional buds and stems. (You can also pinch a plant to keep it at the desired size.)

When to use deadheading and topping

Deadheading is similar to pinching in that you can use the two-finger method – or you can use shears or clippers. As you move towards the head, cut or pinch off as close to the base of the head as possible, where it meets the next rung of leaves, as much as possible. This technique completely removes the pod so that the plant can grow more completely, and more precisely so that the flowers produce more buds for longer. This type of pruning, when applied to trees, is called topping.

Topping and deadheading are considered very stressful forms of plant care. Texas A&M Earth Kind Landscaping describes topping as “the process by which a tree is cut into a few large branches. After 2 to 3 months, the regrowth on a topped tree is vigorous, bushy and upright. It has the potential for big gains but can compromise the strength of the shaft if not done correctly, so proceed with caution.

How to thin out your shrubs

When it comes to maintaining a plant’s size while promoting growth, thinning is ideal for shrubs and trees. Thinning cuts smaller branches to dictate the size of the shrub and help focus the plant’s energy on its main branches. To thin out a plant, cut the smaller branch at the “crotch” (or Y section) of the tree. Watch the horticulturalist Catherine moravec demonstrate it in a YouTube video for Colorado Yard Care.

Shrubs must be thinned by cut small branches at the base just above the ground. This leaves more room for the growth of other branches and for more oxygen and light to penetrate the larger branches and leaves.

When to shape and transparent

Sometimes you will prune just because you want a plant or tree to grow in a certain direction or maintain its shape or size. You can shape a plant or tree with shears or mowers – or sometimes even electric chainsaws – to cut small leaves or branches in a particular model. This the method is common on hedges, dwarf trees and conifers.

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