Pruning is the delicate art of cutting off particular limbs and branches of hedges and shrubs to encourage new growth, train the plant, maintain the plant's health and improve the quality of its flowers, fruit or foliage. Major pruning should only be done annually in the spring to encourage new growth and remove damaged and dead after winter's frosts. Whether creating hedged pathways or a garden topiary, pruning is an essential and enjoyable part of gardening.
Determine whether you would like the shrub to have a more open or full appearance.
Thin the plants that need a more open appearance by cutting back the branches to their main stem. This type of cutting will not promote excessive new growth, thus containing the plant.
Head back the plants where a fuller appearance is desired by removing the dead portions of the plant, only to the places where dead wood ends and live growth begins. This type of cutting promotes new shoots in the plant, and a final, fuller shrub.
Determine the desired overall design and boundaries for the hedges.
Cut the hedges into the desired design with hedge clippers.
Evaluate the overall appearance from a distance. If the hedges are in a straight vertical block, cut them so that the tops are smaller than the bottom. This ensures the entire plant receives sunlight.
Cut the entire hedge to the ground if it appears too thin or leggy at the bottom. The hedge will grow back quickly and fill in the bottom section more thoroughly.
About this Author
Ann White is a freelance journalist with prior experience as a Corporate and Business Attorney and Family Law Mediator. She has written for multiple university newspapers and has published over 300 articles for publishers such as EHow and Garden Guides. White earned her Juris Doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.