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Pruning: Meaning, Importance, Methods & Tools

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Pruning: Meaning, Importance, Methods & Tools

A common practice in and around the garden that needs attending now and then is pruning. Knowing why, how, and when to prune is important in achieving healthy vibrant plants.

What is Pruning?

In horticulture, to prune is to remove or cut back parts of a plant that could be harmful to its health and development or to improve its shape or yield [1].

Different Methods  

Plant pruning can take place at any time of the year but generally in spring.

In early spring or late winter, prune fruiting and flowering plants. This will encourage a healthy crop. Also, it is best to prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees in late spring before new buds appear.

To avoid causing damage to fruit trees or berry plants, it is best to prune them during winter dormancy. Other plants require constant pruning in order to stay healthy and strong.

Regardless of when you prune plants, there are different methods of pruning to adopt for achieving good results.


This is just like a general clean-up. There will always be a certain amount of dead or diseased plant parts throughout the year.

Cleaning simply means removing dead and decaying, broken, and/or diseased branches and stems from woody plants, ornamental trees and shrubs, and other plants. This method does not entail removing healthy branches.


This means ‘raising the crown’ by cutting away lower branches.

Raising is most commonly done for practical reasons. Reasons such as exposing road signs, bringing light into structures, clearing away from electricity poles and wires, etc.

Overhanging branches obstructing vehicles, pedestrians, and buildings may also require pruning.


Foliage on overgrown trees and bushes often becomes so dense that there is little air and sunlight infiltration to allow for healthy growth. So, these need to be thinned.

Thinning means removing or cutting back live branches to reduce the density. It decreases the density at the edge of the tree‘s crown, not the interior.

This method allows for more sunlight to penetrate the tree and increases air movement. Tree surgeons recommend eliminating no more than 20% of tree foliage.


This is shortening the height of a tree or reducing its spread for aesthetic purposes to achieve a more pleasing shape and size. Reduction may also be needed to restrict the top section or large branches from impeding structures or power lines.

This method is also used to prevent younger trees from growing to unacceptable heights. It involves the careful selection of tree limbs for removal.

Importance of Pruning 

Pruning has many benefits for trees and plants and also for your family. 

1. Control of Insects

While insects may not necessarily kill a plant, some can spread diseases, weakening the entire plant.

You can spray bad infestations but oftentimes it’s best to just cut off infected branches. Overall, pruning fruit trees and bushes can help to eliminate pests and strengthen the plant.

2. Safety

Weak, loose, and overgrown branches can cause serious problems in storms or heavy winds. They could potentially smash into window panes or break off and damage buildings and cars. They could also hit electricity poles and cables and hurt people and pets.

The removal of weakened, broken, or hazardous branches will reduce the risk of further damage.

3. Growth Control

Overgrowth can weaken a tree if there is a loss in shape. The plant may not have enough strength to support itself.

The growth may also become a nuisance to neighbors or pedestrians on the streets. Growth control is also necessary to avoid damaging cables and electricity pylons.

4. Increase Property Value

Unsightly trees and overgrown bushes and shrubs can be an eyesore. Moreover, it can even be detrimental to property value, including all properties in the neighborhood.

Conversely, nicely manicured, healthy-looking trees, shrubs, and plants will surely be a pleasure to everyone and add value to properties.

5. More Air and Sunlight

Pruning plants is essential in allowing air and light through. Therefore, cutting off older and/or weaker branches can produce stronger plants and thick glossy foliage.

Additionally, natural light in the house or workplace can help to avoid many health problems and eyestrain.

Sun exposure is nature’s way of supplying our bodies with Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) [2]. Vitamin D is essential in keeping our body functioning properly.

Pruning Tools

Learning where and when to cut is important. However, the correct tools are vital too. Read: Simple Farm Tools and Items You Should Own.

Garden Scissors

Deadheading flowers is one of those regular gardening jobs that take time but is necessary and rewarding. To remove flower heads and encourage new growth, garden scissors are usually the only tool needed.


These are tough enough to cut thicker stems and branches.

Secateurs resemble strong, heavy scissors. Many different types are available for different jobs. They also come in various sizes to minimize strain on the hand.

Loppers and Long-Reach Pruners

Two-handed tools are invaluable for cutting upper branches safely without risking ladders or overstretching muscles.

Loppers are generally used for taking off thicker and harder branches and stems that secateurs cannot handle. Additionally, long-reach pruners are ideal for branches that are hard to reach.


These tools are specially designed to cut easily and smoothly through live branches.

There are large and small saws — some with straight blades and others with curved blades. However, the pruning of large mature trees may need the help of professional tree surgeons.

Pruning vs. Trimming 

These terms seem as if they are the same thing but there is a difference. Pruning means the precise cutting back of infected, dead, or dangerous branches or stems from respective plants.

Tree trimming or tree lopping is dealing with overgrowth to improve shape, size, or overall appearance and encourage healthy growth.


Pruning may be a laborious task sometimes, but the time and effort will reward the work with healthy, attractive, and safe plants and trees.

Sasha Brown

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

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