Be on cutting edge of info when it comes to pruning


An important maintenance activity each gardener must perform is pruning of woody ornamental plants and trees. Pruning systematically removes plant parts to increase the value of a plant by maintaining its health and vigor, modifying its form and size, modifying its flowering or fruiting, and maintaining an attractive plant.

It also removes injured or dead wood, eliminates entry points for insects and disease, encourages branching and bushy growth, and rejuvenates the plants.

Master Gardeners prune our Parker F. Scripture Botanical Garden throughout the year. The garden is located at 121 Second St. in Oriskany.

There are three reasons for pruning deciduous shrubs:

Opening up the plant to light and air, establishing its structure, and directing its growth;

Shortening plant stems, making the plant denser, and reducing its height without changing its natural shape; and

To rejuvenate old or overgrown ones, removing the oldest and largest, broken, damaged, dead or diseased and unattractive or unruly branches.

Pruners must assess the whole plant before making any pruning cuts, and never make a cut without knowing the reason for doing so.

Basic Principles 

The time of year for pruning depends upon the type of plant, the desired outcome, and the severity of pruning. However, remedial pruning to remove broken, dead, or diseased branches can occur any time. In general, the harder the pruning, the more vigorous the re-growth will be.

General pruning principles are:

Spring and early summer-flowering shrubs flower on the previous season’s growth. When pruning plants that are grown for their spring flowers, prune last year’s growth soon after they bloom to permit new wood to grow and ripen to bloom the following year.

Late summer and autumn flowering shrubs that flower on the current season’s growth do so from buds formed that same spring, so prune in late winter/early spring to encourage vigorous shoots that will flower the same year.  

Prune evergreen and deciduous shrubs grown for foliage in late winter/early spring before new growth starts.

Pruning Techniques:

Use sharpened pruning shears, loppers, and a good saw;

Wear protective gloves and eye protection;

When pruning diseased wood, disinfect tools in between each cut with denatured alcohol or bleach; 

Prune limbs not thicker than a pencil with hand shears; scissor action pruners

Prune limbs up to ¾ inch thick with loppers, which are scissor-action pruners, with larger blades and long handles to increase leverage; and

Prune branches bigger than ¾ inch thick with a pruning saw.

When pruning, you should:

Prune from the bottom of the plant up, and from the inside out;

Remove all damaged, diseased, and dead wood;

Remove interfering branches that rub together or that grow back into the center of the plant; leave the best placed ones; keep the ones that head up and out from the center or that fill empty spaces.

Remove suckers and watersprouts as close as possible to the main root;

Make all pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle.

To direct growth of a plant, cut just above a bud on a branch pointed in the direction that you want the plant to grow.

Suggested Pruning Timetable for Deciduous Plants:

Late Winter/Early Spring

(just before bud break):

Prune roses and other summer-blooming shrubs as follows:

Cut damaged, diseased, winter-killed or weak twiggy wood back to healthy growth; 

Remove the oldest canes or branches from mature shrubs, leaving 5 or 6 green new ones;

Remove growth an inch below any canker;

Cut just above a bud that point outward to produce a well-shaped plant.

Prune back one-half of new growth of junipers, yews and arborvitae; 

Prune most types of spring-blooming vines back to healthy wood after blooming;

Prune overgrown broad-leafed evergreens or deciduous shrubs (to allow the greatest amount of re-growth and a longer growing season for the new growth to fully mature before winter).

Prune dormant fruit trees, grape vines, blueberries and brambles.

Spring (After bud-break) 

Avoid pruning deciduous plants while they are leafing out.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs after blooming; clip back terminals of new shoots and spent flowers to encourage production of side shoots and flower buds;

Pinch out one half of new growth on flowering shrubs, as well as evergreens, to encourage branching, production of side shoots and flower buds, while promoting compact growth;

Summer (After new growth

starts to become woody)

Avoid heavy pruning that would put too much stress on plants or stimulate new shoots that will not fully harden before winter;

Tidy up, remove suckers and watersprouts;

Shear/rejuvenate hedges;

Early Fall

Prune wisteria vines.

Fall into Winter:

Ease off any pruning that will result in large wound scars.

Winter (after hard freezes, when plants are truly dormant)

Prune dormant plants.

Rejuvenate any shrubs that have grown out of bounds.

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