Easy ways to prune conifers, deciduous trees and hedges

July 27, 2015

Did you know that not all plants can be pruned the same way? Follow these simple guidelines and soon you'll be a pruning pro!

Easy ways to prune conifers, deciduous trees and hedges

Quickly prune conifers

Firs, spruces, pines or other needle-leaf conifers require specific pruning techniques.

  • Just use your fingers to pinch off half of each "candle" — a new shoot with growth buds — before it turns green in spring.
  • Take care not to remove the entire candle; doing so stops any further growth of the branch.

Smart ways to prune a hedge

  • Some hedge shrubs, such as boxwood, can be trimmed to just a couple of feet wide, while more sprawling shrubs, such as hibiscus, will need 2.4 metres (eight feet) or more.
  • Because pruning stimulates new growth, prune evergreen and most deciduous hedges in spring. However, if your hedge produces spring flowers, wait until after they bloom to do any cutting.
  • Hedges do not have to be trimmed into neat, formal rectangles. Many hedges are loose and informal, incorporating a variety of plants.
  • Pruning for any type of hedge starts with removing any dead wood and cutting back any broken or damaged branches.
  • To shape a formal hedge, use hedge shears. Make the hedge narrower on top than on the bottom, so that light can reach the bottom branches, keeping them green and preventing them from dying out.
  • If you have an informal hedge, use shears or loppers to thin it out, trimming old wood to the base of the plant.
  • If you want to control the size of the hedge, selectively prune branches to retain their natural form.
  • Don't cut off the ends of the branches; that will stimulate bushy growth that will shade the interior and create a dead centre.

Prune deciduous trees in no time

Take a gentle approach to pruning.

  • Instead of severely pruning a specimen all at one time — called topping — prune over a three- to five-year period.
  • Prune when it is dormant in late winter, not in spring when leaves are forming.
  • Oaks and walnuts are exceptions to this rule — they should be pruned in early summer to ward off diseases.
  • When pruning, help the tree retain one strong central trunk or "leader." Prune any competing leader, branches that rub against other branches, old stubs, broken limbs, dead wood, crowded branches and thin shoots from the trunk or lower branches.

Pruning your plants has never been easier! Keep these tips in mind and create a beautiful (and healthy) landscape.

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