of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
Guide to Successful Pruning: Pruning Basics & Tools
is a regular part of plant maintenance involving the selective
removal of specific plant parts. Although shoots and branches
are the main targets for removal, roots, flower buds, fruits
and seed pods may also be pruned.
wounds plants, but plants respond differently to wounding than
do animals. In plants, damaged areas are covered by callus tissue
to close wounds. Simply put: animal wounds heal, plant wounds
seal. Plants also wall off, or compartmentalize, wounds, which
limits any decay that results from wounding, or from the natural
death of branches. Use pruning techniques that minimize plant
wounding and speed wound closure.
pruning recommendations advise against pruning branches flush
to the trunk. Flush cutting is harmful in several ways: it damages
bark as pruning tools rub against the trunk, it removes the branch
collar and goes behind the branch bark ridge. The branch collar
is the swollen area of trunk tissue that forms around the base
of a branch. If you prune away the branch collar, you remove
not only branch wood, but also trunk wood, opening the plant
to more extensive decay. The branch bark ridge on trees is a
line of rough bark running from the branch-trunk crotch into
the trunk bark. It is less prominent on some trees than on others.
The best pruning cut is made outside the branch collar , at a
45 to 60 degree angle to the branch bark ridge.
To improve the appearance or health of a plant. Prompt removal
of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts speeds the formation
of callus tissue, and sometimes limits the spread of harmful
insects and disease. For trees, pruning a dense canopy permits
better air circulation and sunlight penetration. To avoid future
problems, remove crossing branches that rub or interfere with
each other, as well as those that form narrow crotches.
To control the size of a plant. Pruning reduces the size of a
plant so that it remains in better proportion with your landscape.
Pruning can also decrease shade, prevent interference with utility
lines and allow better access for pest control.
To prevent personal injury or property damage. Remove dead or
hazardously low limbs to make underlying areas safer. Corrective
pruning also reduces wind resistance in trees. Prune shrubs with
thorny branches back from walkways and other well-traveled areas.
Have trained or certified arborists handle any pruning work in
the crowns of large trees.
To train young plants. Train main scaffold branches (those that
form the structure of the canopy) to produce stronger and more
vigorous trees. You'll find it easier to shape branches with
hand pruners when a plant is young than to prune larger branches
later. Pruning often begins with young plants for bonsai, topiary,
espalier or other types of special plant training.
To influence fruiting and flowering. Proper pruning of flower
buds encourages early vegetative growth. You can also use selective
pruning to stimulate flowering in some species, and to help produce
larger (though fewer) fruits in others.
To rejuvenate old trees and shrubs. As trees and shrubs mature,
their forms may become unattractive. Pruning can restore vigor,
and enhance the appearance of these plants.
pruners to cut stems up to 3/4 inches in diameter. Two
types of pruners are available: bypass and anvil. Bypass
pruners have sharpened, curved, scissors-type blades that
overlap. Anvil pruners have straight upper blades that
cut against flat lower plates. Although anvil pruners are usually
cheaper, they tend to crush stems as they cut. Furthermore,
the width of the anvil can prevent you from reaching in to
get a close cut on narrow-angled stems. Due to these drawbacks,
bypass pruners are generally recommended.
shears to cut through branches that are up to 1 3/4 inches
in diameter. Loppers have long handles to give you extra reach
and better cutting leverage. For heavy duty pruning jobs, select
loppers with ratchet joints or those with gears. Look for loppers
with shock-absorbing bumpers between the blades, to lessen
arm fatigue. Again, bypass blades are preferable.
saws to remove stems you cannot cut with hand pruners or
lopping shears. Pruning saws come in many sizes, with either
straight or curved blades, and teeth that are either fine or
coarse. Use a finely-toothed, curved pruning saw to remove
branches up to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. You can make a clean
cut with this type of saw where access is difficult. Use a
coarsely toothed saw for heavy branches 3 inches or more in
pruners to cut out-of-reach branches up to 2 inches in
diameter. Pole pruners consist of blades attached to stationary
hooks which are mounted on long wooden or aluminum poles. A
cord or chain is used to control the cutting action of the
spring-loaded blade. Fully extended, you can use pole pruners
to reach branches 12 feet or more in height. Pole pruners are
especially valuable on jobs where ladders would be inconvenient
or would damage the tree. Use great care when pruning near
saws to remove branches greater than 3 inches in diameter.
Many types and sizes of chain saws are readily available, powered
by gasoline or electricity. In selecting a chain saw, carefully
consider the tasks for which it will be used. The size of the
engine and the length of the blade determine the branch diameter
through which you can cut. Chain saws should be used only with
appropriate safety gear by people who fully understand their
clippers or pruning shears to trim thin-stemmed
hedges. Manual hedge clippers, and ones powered by gasoline
or electricity, are available. All types shear off growth in
a straight line, regardless of branch collar or bark ridge
location. If you have a long hedge, you may have to use hedge
clippers when hand pruning is impractical. With repeated shearing,
hedges develop a profusion of outer twigs, die back in the
center and often show an increase in pest problems.
quality tools. They will last longer and make pruning more pleasurable.
For maximum effectiveness, sharpen blades regularly and dry and
oil them after each use. Use a file or whetstone for sharpening
hand tools and have an experienced professional sharpen chain
saws and power hedge clippers.
from Susan C. French and Bonnie Lee Appleton, Virginia Cooperative
are poisonous! Read and follow all safety precautions on labels.
Handle carefully and store in original containers out of reach
of children, pets or livestock. Dispose of empty containers
immediately, in a safe manner and place. Pesticides should never
be stored with foods or in areas where people eat.
When trade names are used for identification, no product endorsement
is implied, nor is discrimination intended against similar materials.
Be sure that the pesticide you intend to use is registered for
the state of use.
The user of this information assumes all risk for personal injury
or property damage.
information, call the URI CE Gardening and Food Safety Hotline
at 1-800-448-1011 or (401)874-2929 from outside Rhode Island;
Monday-Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm.
of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provides equal program