Why prune? 5 good reasons (Never prune without a good reason!)

  • Remove dead wood to support plant health
  • Create safe, structurally sound specimens
  • Enhance a plant’s ornamental qualities or train to pleasing shapes
  • Stimulate vigorous growth (hedges)
  • Enhance flowering and fruiting

Tool Selection

Pruning Tools

Use the right tool for the job. Keep WD40 and a sharpener on hand. Keep tools clean, oiled and sharp.

How to Prune

  • Plan cuts carefully. Make a cut, step back and assess the next cut, repeat.
  • Prune no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Plants need to photosynthesize and will replace lost leaves rapidly by producing watersprouts or suckers. Exceptions are roses or shrubs that can be pruned low to the ground in spring (willows, red twig dogwoods).
  • No tree topping. Removing the head of a tree creates problems in the overall structure of the tree. Thinning the tree over time or removing the tree all-together are usually better options.

Small Branch Cutting

smallbranches smallbranches
  • Good cuts are about ¼” above a growth-bud or branch and made at an angle facing away from the bud.
  • Cutting too close to a bud damages the bud; cutting too far away leaves a bit of stem to rot on the plant.

Large Branch Cutting


Branch Collar

Where a branch attaches to the trunk or another large branch, there is an area of raised bark that contains the materials the plant needs to heal after the cut.

This area should stay intact. Make cuts parallel to the branch that is remaining, just above the branch collar .

Cutting too close will inhibit healing after the cut.


Making the Cut

  1. Make a small undercut about 2" away from the trunk.
  2. Make a cut on top of the branch near the first cut, but farther away from the trunk.
  3. Remove the rest of the branch.
  4. Make a clean cut outside of the branch collar.

Note: this process may have to be started closer to the tip of a large branch and repeated closer to the trunk to reduce weight on branches.