How to Prune Existing Plantings


According to the University of Minnesota Extension, "Pruning is a horticultural practice that alters the form and growth of a plant. Based on aesthetics and science, pruning can also be considered preventive maintenance." Many reasons for pruning exist, including promoting the overall health and well being of the plant, encouraging flowering and improving the overall appearance of the plant. Pruning of existing plants, like hedges, helps to create barriers and windbreaks around a home. Pruning established or new plants is the equivalent of a regular tune-up, a key factor in ensuring a strong and healthy life.

Step 1

According to Texas A & M Extension Office, "In general, the best time to prune most plants is during late winter or early spring before growth begins."

Step 2

Prune overgrown plantings during their dormant season, typically in the winter. Remove one half of each upper branch to reduce overgrowth, but guarantee flowering during the growing season. Cut at a 45 degree angle, one-third to one-half way from the end of the branch.

Step 3

Use a light touch when pruning plants that are less than two years old. Once the plant is fully established, treat it as a mature plant and prune as needed.

Step 4

Remove all gnarled and crossing branches by removing the entire branch. Keep the plant looking tidy by trimming back young crossing branches as soon as they are visible.

Step 5

Cut off all spent or dead flowers on flowering shrubs with pruning shears as soon as they are noticeable. Cut the bloom to the base of each bud to free up essential nutrients to the rest of the plant.

Step 6

Trim off diseased or pest-infested branches from shrubs and trees to prevent contamination to the rest of the plant. Remove the entire branch and discard it in a place away from the garden.

Step 7

Remove dead branches by pruning the stem off at the intersection of the main branch. Cut off any stray or lateral branches that make the plant look wild or untidy.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always wear protective gardening gloves when using pruning shears.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gardening gloves


  • Texas A & M Extension: Proper Pruning Techniques
  • University of Minnesota Exension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: pruning existing plants, cutting branches, deadheading spent blooms

About this Author

Callie Barber is a writer, designer and photographer in North Carolina. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate your indoor and outdoor living environment. Her articles have appeared in and and her photography has been featured in "Automotive News" magazine and