Tips on Pruning Shrubs

The process of pruning shrubs is a delicate one that, when done properly, can promote vigorous growth and reproduction. The pruning process involves the removal of flower buds, seed pods, branches and roots. Pruning should be completed when deadened, dying or diseased areas appear. It can also be completed to tame or shape shrubs, and stimulate new growth.

Pre-emptive Pruning

Prune your shrubs to maintain health rather than to address issues. Regular pruning will help you to pre-empt diseases and dying wood by reducing the number of entry points for disease and insects. Sterilize your pruning shears before beginning and in between cuts. This will reduce the spread of infection. An ideal disinfectant can be made using one part chlorine bleach with nine parts of water. You can also use wood alcohol, which is commonly found in nurseries and home improvement retail locations.

Angled Cut

Prune your shrub's flower buds to promote larger, more colorful flowers. Trim the bud back by making a small, angular cut approximately ¼ inch above the bud. An angled cut will allow for the elimination of moisture on the cut and reduced healing time.


If a succulent shoot becomes excessively long, extending outside of the shrub's natural shape, pinch or cut the shoot back to a complementary length. This pruning process will promote side branching and reduce the need for extensive pruning in the future. Avoid pinching shoots during the late summer periods.

Shrub Opening

To promote a more open shrub without stimulating new growth, cut the branch from its point of origin or parent stem using a lateral cut. Remove the oldest and tallest stems first. This will promote vigorous side branch development. Avoid using hedge shears for this process. Instead, choose a pruning shear, saw or lopper.

Renewal Pruning

Rejuvenate your shrubs by pruning the oldest branches nearest to the ground. Leave the younger, more vibrant branches and simply prune them to complement shape. Also, remove small stems to avoid unshapely growth toward the bottom of the shrub's frame.

Late-Season Pruning

Pruning promotes new growth and should be avoided in the late summer periods. The new growth that results from pruning may not have enough time to condition itself for the upcoming cold weather, which can result in disease and death. If disease or breakage occurs, prune your shrub immediately, regardless of season, and dress the areas to protect them from the weather elements.

Large Branches

Large branches should be cut in at least three cuts to avoid tearing the bark. Cut the underside of the branch first. Next, undercut approximately halfway through the branch. Finally, cut an inch or two further into the branch until the branch breaks free. This cut should be completed in a lateral motion to promote successful healing.

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About this Author

Writing professionally since 2004, Charmayne Smith focuses on corporate materials such as training manuals, business plans, grant applications and technical manuals. Smith's articles have appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and on various websites, drawing on her extensive experience in corporate management and property/casualty insurance.