Beginner’s Guide to Plant Pruning

When I bought my home, I wished I had a beginners guide to plant pruning.  I would have saved a lot of plants and money.  One quickly learns that the proper plants, in the proper weather conditions, can cause plants to overgrow in their space and onto walkways and landscape trim.  Cutting back or pruning these plants help them stay healthy and prevent fungi and disease from spreading throughout your flower bed.  Before you start pruning your plants, you’ll need to know details about them.  Otherwise, there’s a chance damage can be done to your plants preventing re-growth.   If you haven’t spent a lot of time in your yard, fear not.  This beginners guide will help you get through the landscape jitters.


Essential Plant Pruning Tools

It’s helpful to be prepared before you start pruning or cutting back your plants.  Otherwise, you’ll be running back and forth looking for the supplies you need along the way.  It’s best to have a caddy or a carrier to store your tools & supplies.  Having a caddy prevents you from stepping on any supplies as you work.  In addition to your caddy, you will need gloves, sharp hand pruners,  a pair of shears, and tarp or garbage bags for trash.  Keep in mind that hand pruners are used for smaller stems.  Shears are used for thicker stems, shaping, and cutting back.  Lastly, you may need a small saw to cut the thicker stems since they are woody.  These come in handy when working with shrubs.

Plant Pruning Tools

Know Your Plants

It’s important to know what types of plants you have in your yard.  The type of plant determines when and how far back to prune.  Do a little investigative work to determine your plant inventory.  There are plenty of resources online to learn about the species living in your yard.  Additionally, you can take photos and review them with your local garden center or nursery.  You should find out whether your plants are annuals or perennials.  Then you’ll want to know when they flourish.  Is it during specific seasons or months that aren’t seasonal?  At the end of the day, you are seeking answers to know as much as possible about your plants so you can prune them appropriately.


It’s All About Timing

Plants should be pruned or shaped during their dormant period.  So what exactly does dormant period mean?  This is the time when plants stop growing.  Living in a four season climate usually means pruning during the winter months.  However, warmer climates should prune or cut back plants March through October.  It’s best to water plants well if you are doing a sizable amount of pruning to them.  When you do, wait at least 1 hour before starting the process.  This is also the timeframe that fertilizing the area around the plants may be needed.  Fertilizing depends on what’s planted in the flower bed and how much help they may need.

Walkway Plant Pruning

Cut Back To The Basal Growth

It’s best to prune back to the basal growth.  Don’t be alarmed if you cut back half your plant.  Just remember that the basal is at the bottom of the plant.  This could be a few inches off the ground.  The new growth from the plant is the basal growth.  This allows the plant to grow back even fuller and a chance that more blooms will appear.  Once you’re done pruning, make sure to throw away your trash in a bag or trash bin.  Leaving it in the yard could leave behind seedlings that you didn’t know still existed on the plant.  Leftover seedlings causes new growth of a plant when you least expect it.


Plant Pruning Frequency

Most plants require pruning once a year.  There may be some plants that require twice a year or maybe some shaping along the way.  Ask your local garden center or nursery if you have doubts on the frequency of pruning a specific plant.  Just make sure you advise the type of plant and the last time it was pruned or cut back.  Furthermore, keep in mind that plants do not have the same growth rate.  One plant may grow taller than the same one next to it.  This is out of your control.  All you can do is shape your plants to be at the same height.


Ultimately, you want your flower bed or garden healthy.  Also, this process allows you to control size and the aesthetics of various plants that need space to grow.  The process may seem daunting or just “too much” to handle.  However, the more information you know about your plants, the questions and next steps all fall into place.  Don’t feel discouraged if something doesn’t work out.  You can always replace a plant with a new one and start over.  Sometimes it’s a learning experience.  Nevertheless, it’s the lessons from the experience that allow you to have a “green thumb” and grow your confidence regarding plants.