Pruning is defined as
purposeful removal of any part of a plant — branches, twigs,
foliage, flowers, fruits, seed pods and roots.
is necessary for a number of reasons:
To improve the health of a plant by removing dead, diseased or
To control the size of a plant so that it is in proportion with
the other plants and hardscape in a garden.
To train young plants to achieve a particular form. This is
particularly important in shaping very young trees to fit into
the landscape as they begin growing to maturity. The form and
function of a plant can be modified utilizing specialized
training, such as, bonsai, topiary and espalier.
To influence fruiting and flowering. Selected pruning techniques
are used to control quantity, quality and size of fruits and
To rejuvenate old woody plants that have become unattractive
and/or outgrown their allotted space in the landscape.
To prevent personal injury or property damage.
Many gardeners are wary of making cuts of any kind on their
plants. The good news is that it is difficult to kill a plant
via pruning. In most cases the plant will recover by adding new
growth; the important take-away is to embark on pruning with
some knowledge of proper technique.
Proper pruning skills require time, patience and experience.
Start with simple tasks, and over time, you will find that
pruning is not as traumatic as you might have thought. You will
make mistakes, but that is part of the learning process.
you want to undertake a pruning project, but are not sure how to
following resources are great starting points:
Your local extension office. The Allegheny County Extension
Office hosts a Greenline (412-473-2600)
to answer gardening questions. Calls are answered weekly from
October through March. From April through September, calls are
Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Penn State Nittany Lion
Extension offices throughout the country provide excellent
materials on pruning. Two references from the Penn State
Pruning Landscape Trees
Pruning Ornamental Plants
Friends and neighbors who are experienced gardeners.
There are some excellent books on pruning for gardeners. Whether
you head to the library or an online vendor, check out the
ratings and reviews. Note that some pruning recommendations have
changed over time, such as the notion to “paint” over pruning
cuts, which is now regarded as incorrect. Keep that in mind if
you’re consulting an older publication.
The Internet. Be sure to visit several sites to ensure that the
information you are seeking is consistent. Concentrate on sites
that are affiliated with learning institutions or public
Pruning is an area of horticulture that can’t be addressed in a
short article. A series of articles will be featured in this
space aimed at demystifying the topic of pruning for beginner
and intermediate gardeners. The next article in the series will
recommend pruning tools that all gardeners should have in their