by Joel John, ASLA, OCNT, Ohio Pesticide Applicators License • Co-owner
Quality, effective pruning takes solid plant knowledge to do it correctly. It is one of the maintenance tasks we try to do for all of our clients (unfortunately many people, including other landscapers can do it incorrectly).
First, we’re sure to understand the type of plant and its characteristics to understand ideal timing to prune and how hard you can prune the plant. Our new staff members typically take nearly two years of pruning experience to truly master the art, so do not be discouraged if your DIY work does not look great.
I often compare pruning to a hair stylist. Unless you’re looking to achieve a buzz cut, everyone gets their hair styled a certain way. That is how we should prune shrubbery, making cuts specific to that specific plant. At M.J., we always prune by hand with hand pruners (NO SHEARS!) It is important to get a clean cut. Shears can tear, millions of poor cuts, causing lots of wounds for the plant.
Next, we’re sure to cut in strategic places, just above a node or bud, not in the middle of a stem. Just these two points leads to a much healthier shrub and better looking.
There are so many other points to detail, but here a few more of our expert practices:
We prune after the plant flowers. As soon as a plant flowers, it starts to prepare for next year’s flowering cycle. The longer you wait, the more likely to prune off next year’s blooms before they even happen.
We prune out the dead and diseased, and anything really ugly!
If possible, we prune when the plant is dormant—which is just a lot less stressful. The middle of the summer’s heat can be hard on a plant. Remember, each cut is a wound to the plant. When forced to prune in the heat, we make sure the plants are well hydrated.
We never cut more than 1/3 of the plant away at one time. Just like turf grass, if trimmed near 50%, you can kill the plant depending upon timing and type.
We get to know your plant. Some plants can tolerate just about anything. Yet some trees never recover from even light pruning—they just do not regenerate like other plants.
If possible, we’ll wait until late June to summer prune. If you prune in the spring during the flush of the new year’s growth, the plant will become confused and waste energy pushing more new growth. Pruning Boxwood and Taxus in early May, for example, just creates more work. Those plants will heavily re-shoot after a pruning. So we wait until the heat of the summer slows growth and the plant settles into the new growing season. This minimizes the stress on the plant from the pruning.
Remember you cannot re-attach a branch, so start small. Then you can always prune more—or just call us to help with our expertise! 😊