Why Does A Gardener Prune Plants?

Why does a gardener prune plants? Well, pruning and trimming are two of several maintenance processes gardeners often do to remove dead branches. Besides that, cutting back the dying branches can remove diseased parts that may harm their plants. Others also prune the plants to check on pests infestation. Then, are there other more important reasons for pruning that we should know?

To answer this question, we have summarized several vital points regarding pruning, including how to prune plants. Apart from that, we will clear the air by explaining the differences between trimming and pruning, which are often confused.

Some further discussion about the characteristics of plants that need pruning is also available. Without any further ado, let’s get into the following sections!

What Do Prune Plants Mean?

Pruning is one of the gardening techniques to remove woody plants or other dying parts, such as buds, branches, or spent flowers. It is also helpful for the early detection of pests and diseases, controlling growth, and exposing soil to sunshine.

why does a gardener prune plants
Pruning Plants: One of Gardening Techniques

However, are all types of cutting of plant parts categorized as pruning? Let’s see the explanation in the next chapter.

1. What Is Considered Pruning?

Since not all cutting is pruning, we need to understand what cutting technique is considered pruning. This process is briefly a selective process to select parts of plants or trees that are already dying to cut. Therefore, pruning is also popular as the deadwood removal method. In addition, pruning also includes pruning areas of trees or plants that are too dense. The primary purpose of pruning is to ensure your plants healthy growth.

2. What Is The Difference Between Trimming and Pruning?

In language, trimming and pruning are synonymous. But when it comes to tree and shrub maintenance, both share slightly different meanings. Trimming is pruning the dense growth of branches and foliage that can interfere with sun exposure to the soil. It also keeps your plants in shape. Usually, you can see gardeners trim shrubs, like viburnums, for natural garden privacy.

On the other hand, pruning is more about removing dead parts, like buds, branches, foliage, or flowers. Those with disease and pest infestation are also the focus of the pruning process. It also stimulates healthy growth and develops strong structures.

3. What Are The Three Types Of Pruning?

Still talking about pruning, do you know that there are three different types of pruning gardeners usually do to keep their plants thriving? Each of these methods offers advantages for your plants. Find out the details below!

Thinning Cuts

This pruning method cuts the side branches up to the parent tree, reducing the weight of the large trunks. It offers protection to the branch defense zone from rot as long as your tree has a collar branch. Besides, thinning cuts are also useful for reducing the canopy tree density.

Thus, allowing sunshine to pass through the tree. Generally, this method is helpful to prune unwanted branches from small trees, shrubs, and older trees.

Reduction Cuts

In contrast to thinning cuts, reduction cuts are beneficial to train young trees. It is not recommended for older trees or those with growing issues as it can accelerate decline due to the absence of branch defense zones. This pruning type focuses on removing larger trunks back to the side branches with smaller diameters. Due to this fact, it considerably reduces the height of your tree.

Heading Cuts

Perhaps, heading cuts are the most appropriate way to stimulate dense tree canopy growth. It removes the branch tips, where new buds will flourish, resulting in thick branches later. However, we do not recommend this pruning for your shade trees. Why? Because it promotes the growth of fresh branches at the top of your tree that are prone to stormy winds.

Why Does A Gardener Prune Plants?

Now, we came to the question: “Why does a gardener prune plants?” As we said earlier, plants require pruning to maintain healthy growth. However, what are the other benefits of pruning?

Are there any drawbacks for your plants if you prune them? Find out the answers below!

1. Pruning Advantages and Disadvantages 

Before we reveal the disadvantages, let’s talk about the advantages of pruning. So far, pruning is useful for stimulating growth of branches, young shoots, leaves, and more.

As it turns out, there are several other significant benefits for your plants, including:

Reduce Thick Canopy

While having shade trees in your garden is fun, a thick canopy can create new problems. One of them is interfering with sunlight exposure from passing through the tree. Consequently, the plants or lawns that grow around it lack exposure to these rays. Therefore, pruning is the best way to reduce thick canopy to allow the trees and plants to absorb adequate light.

Encourage Flowering and Fruiting

One of the importance of pruning fruit trees is promoting plant growth. It includes branches, leaves, flowers, and even fruits! This is possible due to the presence of plant hormones, such as auxin and cytokinin, which stimulate tissue growth. These hormones will be triggered because you trim the plant parts above the nodes.

why does a gardener prune plants
Gardener Prune Plants

Early Identification Of Pests and Diseases

While pruning, you can check for pests and diseases on your plants. You can immediately remove them to prevent spreading. Apart from that, taking proper measurements for your plants is helpful, such as spraying with pesticides and insecticides according to the problems you observe.

In contrast to that, pruning may also trigger issues for your trees. Unfortunately, not many people or gardeners know these disadvantages. What are those?

Prone To Pests and Diseases

You might find this somewhat contradictory to the advantages of pruning. But unfortunately, this risk can occur due to errors in treatment before or after pruning. In the process of pruning, you will leave scars on your plants. If you do watering without letting the fresh cut dry, you will most likely trigger fungal diseases in the cuts.

In addition, some pests, such as elm bark beetles, are also attracted to new pruning cuts. You can handle these issues by spraying natural or chemical insecticides that suit your plants.

New Growth Is Susceptible To Wind and Storm

If you use heading cuts to prune your trees or plants, you will encounter this problem. Heading cuts accelerate fast growth on trees, resulting in many new branch tips that are not strong enough when storms or strong winds hit. Instead of having dense growth in spring, it will hamper your plants’ growth due to damaged buds.

2. What Happens If You Don’t Prune Plants?

After you read the previous section, you will realize that pruning has two sides to the story. While you may face downsides after pruning, this technique offers many more advantages for your plants. Therefore, deciding not to prune your plants negatively impacts them and your surroundings.

What Happens If You Don't Prune Plants
What Happens If You Don’t Prune Plants

One of the most dangerous things if you don’t prune your trees or plants is the potential for trees to fall or fall branches during lousy weather. Dead branches that are left uncut are fragile. Thus, they will more easily fall off or be carried away by the wind when a storm or heavy rain occurs. It will be life-threatening if someone walks or takes cover under a tree because they can be crushed by fallen tree branches.

Apart from posing dangers to humans, it is also detrimental to trees. Especially if they are infected with diseases or pests. Those issues will spread faster if you don’t trim the infected parts. In addition, the dead parts will divert energy used for growth to those parts. Of course, it will inhibit the overall development of your plants, including flowering and fruiting.

3. What Parts of Plants Should You Not Prune?

In addition to knowing the advantages and disadvantages of pruning, you must understand which parts should not be pruned. While you can freely remove the dead parts, you must not cut the nodes. The nodes contain growth hormones, which will help your plants grow back their buds in the growing season from spring to summer.

If you hurt these parts, your plants will grow slowly or not even grow branches on the fresh cuts. Hence, make sure to cut them above the nodes. Use a 45-degree angle to ensure smooth cuts. Apart from that, some also mentioned that you must not remove flower buds in the fruiting trees since it will delay the harvest.

4. When Should You Not Prune Plants?

The perfect time to prune plants is spring and summer. During these seasons, your plants are actively growing, which is favorable for accelerating growth. We do not recommend trimming your trees, shrubs, and plants in the fall or winter as they are about to go dormant.

Besides that, their branches are dry and fragile; thus, they are susceptible to cracking and brittle. Even though it seems not life-threatening for your plants, it can be detrimental once the temperature gets warmer. Insects love to hang around open wounds as it allows them to easily suck on the sap and chew on the plants. Not to mention that they carry diseases that can easily infect your plants.

How Often Should You Prune Your Plants?

Actually, there is no specific benchmark for how often you have to prune your plants. However, pruning of flowering plants, trees, or shrubs must be done during their active growth, usually around spring and summer.

why does a gardener prune plants
Prune Your Plants

Apart from that, you also have to pay attention to the type of plant or tree you will trim. For example, some flowering plants like Azaleas, Forsythia, Lilacs, Clematis, and Rhododendrons do not like spring pruning. As for trees, you should refrain from pruning maples and birches.

On the other hand, our experts suggest pruning your plants, bushes, or trees whenever they grow too dense. Depending on the plant variety, it can be around five times a year or more. This is important to avoid pests and diseases, which are more at risk if you do not prune them soon, as they can spread faster.

In addition, it is better to prune a little but increase the frequency than hard pruning. Excessive cuts in a short time will not allow your plants to take a proper break.

How Do Gardeners Prune Plants?

By this point, we believe you have understood the reasons why a gardener prunes plants. For that reason, we want to walk you through step by step how to plant prunes by gardeners. Some use knives, while the rest prefer shears or other heavier pruning tools to achieve the best results. Let’s take a look!

Pruning of Flowering Plants
Pruning of Flowering Plants
  • Prepare the pruning tools. Depending on the plant size, you can use secateurs, pruning saws, loppers, wood saws, or shears. Don’t forget to wear gloves, clothes, and goggles as protection.
  • Identify the target. You must remove the dead or dying parts first and avoid trimming healthy wood as much as possible. Unless your plants grow densely.
  • Check on the nodes. Make sure you know their location to prevent miss-cutting. If you hurt the nodes, you will slow down the growth.
  • Make a cut 2-3 mm above the nodes with a shear or secateurs if you have a small plant. But for the big ones, take a pruning saw.
  • Position the cut at a 45-degree angle. It is important to avoid overflowing the new bud with water from the cut.
  • If you have shrubs, you can prune them using a wood saw. Cut back the stem around 10-15 cm down to the base.
  • Still with a wood saw or loppers, prune the herbaceous perennials about 3 inches to the ground in the winter. It’s not common to prune in cold temperatures. But it highly depends on the plant species you are about to cut.

Final Thoughts

We think the reason is clear why a gardener prunes plants. Although pruning may have detrimental effects, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. It helps your plants to accelerate their growth and maintain health. The best time to prune is usually in the spring and summer. However, it highly depends on the varieties.

Likewise the use of pruning tools that must be according to the size of your plant. Our experts recommend cutting your trees and shrubs around five times a year. But you can do it whenever they get too overcrowded.


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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much is too much pruning?

Gardeners prune their plants and trees to keep them in shape. Besides, pruning is important to remove dead parts, possible pest infestation, and diseases. It also promotes new growth, allowing your plants a fresh start.

However, pruning more than ⅓ of healthy wood is too much and can lead to troubles. Instead of boosting their development, excessive pruning can stunt your precious plants or trees. Or worse, you may not see new branches developing in the spring.

Should plants be watered after pruning?

You can offer water to freshly cut plants when the weather conditions are dry with hot temperatures when cutting. However, if the air is still humid, you must let them dry out first. It is vital to prevent the emergence of fungal diseases caused by high humidity.

Also, avoid late afternoon or night watering as the high humidity slows down water evaporation from the soil, which traps the water longer in the ground.

Why do plants grow better when pruned?

There are circulating notions that regular pruning stimulates new growth. That’s true and, in fact, backed up by science. Plants have nodes that are generally located along the stems. These nodes contain growth hormones, like auxin and cytokinin, to accelerate new branches.

If you prune plant parts just above the nodes with an angle of about 30-45 degrees, your plants will grow better. However, it must be considered that you must use clean and sterilized cutting tools (shears or knives) to prevent infection.

Should I cut off branches with no leaves?

If you notice dry, dead branches with no leaves, you’d better cut them off. This is useful for diverting the energy produced by plants for growth instead of supplying the dying parts. Besides, these branches can invite disease if left unchecked because, over time, they will decay. So, we recommend removing them before these plants start their growing season in spring.

Do plants grow back after pruning?

Plants will grow back even better after pruning if you do it properly. The pruning process triggers growth hormones (auxin and cytokinin) to work to accelerate the growth process. Usually, your plant will develop new buds near the cutting parts.

However, you must make sure that you remove old wood above the nodes. If you hurt the nodes, you probably won’t see new growth in the spring.

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