We Give You All the Information And Advice About Pruning In Your Garden

Pruning is the practice of cutting away unwanted growth; it may be diseased, overmature, or simply in the way. Deadheading (removing spent flowers before they begin to set seed) in order to concentrate a plant’s energy on continued flower production is also a form of pruning, as is the practice of pinching back herbaceous plants, such as chrysanthemums to delay flowering or to encourage denser or more prolific growth.

Individual plant species tend to have very different pruning needs, and in this article we aim to offer you a complete guide to the major forms, including shrubs, roses, trees, climbers and hedges. Armed with these chief principles of pruning, you’ll be able to use this knowledge to improve significantly the look and health of your plants.

Why Prune?

There are a number of reasons why we need to prune; to restrict a plant that is outgrowing the space given to it and to remove dead, diseased or damaged sections (termed renovative pruning) or to stimulate young growth, to encourage the flowering or fruiting of weak plants and to restore health and vigour to neglected ones (termed regenerative pruning). Pruning may also be undertaken to improve the shape of shrubs, hedges and trees (formative pruning).

Renovative Pruning

Renovative pruning is used to deal with plants that are damaged or diseased by removing the affected sections. If used correctly, it may also be used to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, by giving the plant an un-crowded and open structure. This allows air and light to pass around the plant, preventing pests and diseases and keeping it growing well.

There are a number of that may be solved or prevented by renovative pruning:

Rubbing Shoots

Crowded stems tend to make a plant look untidy and may prevent it from growing into an attractive shape. The constant rubbing of these stems against each other may also cause friction damage, which will make the plant vulnerable to disease. Remove the stems that cross over each other to form an open structure.


Similarly, diseased shoots must be cut away so that they cannot infect the rest of the plant. Make sure that you remove all the diseased material, cutting back to the healthy wood.


Any shoot that dies back towards the main stem should be removed before it affects healthy tissue. Cut the affected part away, pruning just above a healthy bud.

Reversion and Mutation

If variegated leaves start to revert (turn the original green colour) or mutate (turn to a solid yellow or cream colour), then the shoots must be removed before their vigorous growth begins to crowd the remaining variegated stems out. Prune the shoots back to the variegated growth; this may mean that you have to remove the whole stem.

Regenerative Pruning

Regenerative pruning is a way to ensure that plants produce healthy new growth. Species such as roses and fruit trees may be pruned to promote more vigorous flowering and growth, often with higher-quality blooms.

Hard vs Light Pruning

Hard pruning promotes stronger growth than light pruning; this may be used to achieve particular flowering or growth effects. For example, roses may be cut back hard to produce a limited number of shoots, carrying large flowers or pruned lightly to produce a profusion of smaller flowers.

Some shrubs and trees benefit from a heavy annual prune, as their stems produced from new growth have particularly attractive characteristics. This includes species such as dogwood (Cornus alba), with its brilliant red winter stems, or violet willow (Salix daphnoides) which also has a beautiful winter stem colour, this time purple with a white bloom.

Formative Pruning

Formative pruning gives the gardener the opportunity to create shrubs and trees with a balanced framework of well-spaced branches and an attractive shape. It is always better to start formative pruning when the plant is young, rather than trying to enforce a shape on an already well-established plant.

Formative pruning may be used to determine a tree’s final form; for example, by careful pruning, a young tree may be either pruned to form a standard, or alternatively, may be trained against a wall as an espalier.

Pruning Basics

Any pruning work must be carried out carefully in order to avoid damaging the plant. Sharp, clean pruning tools will help to ensure that you make a sharp, clean cut; a ragged cut or a torn stem is very vulnerable to disease.

Damage may be further minimised by ensuring that pruning cuts are accurate. Stems should be severed just above a bud (or pair of buds) that faces in the right direction for growth. Cuts should be made approximately 5 mm (1/4 in) above the bud; at this distance, the cut will be far enough away from the bud to prevent damage to the bud itself, yet near enough not to produce a stub that could act as a point of entry for disease.

When pruning plants that have buds that grow alternately up the stem, make sure that the pruning cut is made at an angle away from the bud; this will encourage moisture to fall away from the bud, reducing the risk of rot. Stems that have pairs of buds that grow in pairs directly opposite each other should be pruned using a straight cut directly above the buds.