When you plant a tree or a shrub, it's often difficult to imagine that it will one day grow into a large one. As time flies by, if all goes well, that little plant can become overgrown and will need some pruning. If you start trimming your trees and shrubs when they are young, it can help to keep them compact, bushy and healthy. For older, larger trees, evaluate the size of the pruning job before you begin: if the job requires a chain saw and a tall ladder, you'd be wise to consider hiring a professional arborist.
Prune most landscape plants during their dormant season, from late fall through midwinter. Wait for deciduous trees to lose their leaves before you undertake any pruning. First look for dead, broken and diseased branches and then prune them back to their branch collar, which is a slightly raised area where the branch grows from the main trunk. You'll need a good tree saw for larger branches.
Snip off the ends of shoots on shrubs to encourage a bushy form. You can do this with your fingernails if the shoots are still green and succulent. Otherwise, use your clippers to snip off just the tips of the shrub's shoots all around the plant. You can also use hedge clippers to remove the tips of shoots, especially if your plant forms a hedge.
Cut all water sprouts (also called suckers) from the base of fruit trees and some other trees. Cut suckers all the way back to the main trunk, but be careful not to nick the trunk with your clippers or loppers. Also cut off branches that have grown 2 feet or less above ground level.
Prune long, spindly branches to remove about 1/3 of their length. Making these "stiffening cuts" helps the plant to develop stronger branches and will cause your plant to have a rounder shape.
Deadhead perennial flowers by cutting all flower stalks back to the main stalk. Some flowering plants, such as penstemon, benefit from "renewal pruning," where you cut most of the plant to the ground. If your plant has healthy medium-sized branches, allow them to remain but cut off about 1/3 of their length.