How to Prune & Care for Plants


The plants in your landscape represent an investment of time and money. Caring for plants requires the basic care of pruning, watering and fertilizing to keep the landscape in top shape. This effort produces plants that resist climate stress to provide years of enjoyment. Learning the basic techniques of plant care allows homeowners to address each plant's individual needs to promote a healthy growing environment.

Step 1

Inspect each plant for dying flowers. Prune off dead flowers using a technique called deadheading that requires clipping off spent flowers directly behind the flower head. You can use either pruning shears or your fingers to pop off the flower head. Deadheading promotes the production of more flower buds.

Step 2

Look for areas of diseased or dying foliage. Use bypass shears for a sharp, clean cut placed as close as possible to the nearest healthy portion of the plant. Don't leave stubs that can invite disease or pests to feed on pruned plants.

Step 3

Trim back dense growth of spent flowers or dead foliage using lopping shears. This tool features long handles and a long blade to accommodate a quick hedge-type cut. This kind of trimming promotes new foliage growth and branching at the point of the cut.

Step 4

Thin dense plants once a year by selecting the older branches of the plant for pruning. This process works best on shrubs. Prune branches up to a half-inch wide using bypass pruning shears or use lopping shears for branches up to two inches wide. Clip at the point where the branch meets the main stem and make cuts flush with the adjoining healthy branch. Space branch removal evenly throughout the shrub to allow light to penetrate the inside of the plant. This technique also works to force blooming on foliage-heavy perennial flowering plants.

Step 5

Use a long-handled hoe for quick removal of weeds at the soil surface in garden beds. Weeds compete for moisture and soil nutrients in the garden environment. Removal allows these resources to be used by your ornamental plants.

Step 6

Conserve water use around the landscape by mulching around ornamental plants. Add a 2-inch layer to perennial and annual flowerbeds to limit weed growth and retain water in the soil. Use a 3- to 4-inch layer around shrubs, but avoid mounding mulch around the plant trunk to prevent too much moisture collection around the plant.

Step 7

Fertilize landscape plants before blooming occurs. Use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer mixed to the proper ratio for each type of plant. Apply fertilizer at the soil level to limit burning of plant leaves.

Step 8

Water regularly and thoroughly to promote moisture retention deep into the soil. Healthy plants result from deep watering that seeps into the soil around plant roots. Use a trickle hose or turn the faucet on to a light water flow and water at the base of each plant stem.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Bypass pruning clippers
  • Pruning loppers
  • Garden hose
  • Trowel
  • Hoe
  • Mulch
  • All-purpose fertilizer
  • Garden hose


  • Ohio State University: General Maintenance of Herbaceous Perennials
  • Utah State University: Water Wise Landscaping: Plant Maintenance
  • North Carolina State University: Annual Flowers: Maintenance
  • University of Vermont: Caring for Perennials

Who Can Help

  • Pruning Basics
Keywords: plant care, pruning plants, pruning basics

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.