Ask the ExpertsShrub Pruning TipsMarch 12, 2021If the thought of pruning the branches of what appears like a perfectly happy shrub makes you cringe, then you are not alone. Most homeowners are aware of the benefits of pruning – more pleasing appearance, better health, more productive flowers – but are still confused when it comes to proper technique and timing for fear of stunting the plant’s growth, killing the plant, or lopping off next year’s blooms. You will understand how good pruning techniques can solve a multitude of problems once you understand how plants respond to proper pruning. Here are some shrub pruning tips.1. TimingTiming is one of the first keys to successful pruning. Generally, the best time to prune is during the dormant months for the plant. Summer pruning slows down growth, while winter pruning stimulates it. For different reasons, there are plants that are best served by spring, summer, and fall pruning. Branches that form in spring and flower in summer or shrubs that flower on new wood should be pruned from February to March. To stimulate beautiful flower growth, it’s best to prune spring-flowering shrubs as soon as they bloom. This will give them the rest of the growing season to grow new buds and branches. To find pruning information for your plants, consult online plant information, ask a landscaping expert, talk to your local nursery, or consult a good gardening book.2. ToolsGetting quality pruning tools is a good investment. Cheap ones typically break easily and will not make good quality cuts for successful pruning. The bypass pruning tool has a curved blade, the anvil has a blade with a straight edge, while the parrot bill works like scissors and has two curved blades. These tools are for thinner stems and smaller plants. To avoid the risk of damaging the tool and to ensure a strong cut, grip the stem as far back on the blades. Small trees and bigger shrubs require the use of a longer-handled pruning tool. More experienced gardeners use pruning knives and saws. These tools require more experience and practice to get used to. 3. Pruning basicsBegin by pruning bushes with damaged and dead branches, since these encourage disease and rot.Pruning cuts heal faster when made at the correct angle and in the right spot. With the lowest point of the cut farthest from the bud, prune just above the bud at a 45° angle, ¼ to ½ above its node.If your shrub looks lifeless inside but has dense foliage at the top, just trim branch tips to open the plant with thinning cuts. Remove the oldest, thickest branches before moving on to smaller, younger stems.If you have a mature shrub that looks like a tangled, woody mess, you can give it an overhaul by pruning old wood gradually. This will help make room for new growth. Remove the branches at the center, starting at the base. During the next growing season, remove one-third of the old wood. By the next growing season, you should see vigorous growth.Pruning is an essential skill in any gardener’s arsenal. We hope that these pruning tips will help, but if you are still unsure of proper shrub pruning techniques, call for backup. Southern Botanical, your residential Dallas landscaping experts can help with all your landscape maintenance needs.