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Pruning: Meaning, Importance, Methods & Tools

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Pruning: Meaning, Importance, Methods & Tools

One of those chores in and around the garden that needs attending to now and then is pruning. Knowing why, how, and when is important in achieving healthy vibrant plants and trees.

What is Pruning?

This is a method of selectively removing unwanted parts of a plant or tree [1].

Nature has its way of doing this, of course, assisted by the action of wind and rain. As a result, it is a common sight after a stormy night to see branches and buds strewn about in gardens, woods, and even the streets.

Most horticulturalists though will find that they need to prune regularly and there are several different ways to do this.

Different Methods  

Plant pruning can take place at any time of the year but generally, early spring. Moreover, or a tidy-up at the end of the year is beneficial.

Some trees bleed sap and are better pruned in a dormant phase, for example. Regardless of when you prune plants, there are different methods of pruning to adopt for achieving good results.


This is just like a general clear-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 of plants. Additionally, it’s removing any heavily infected/diseased parts of bushes, shrubs, and trees.


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

Raising is most commonly done for practical reasons. These include 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 trimming away.


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

This means removing or cutting back live branches to reduce the density. Tree surgeons recommend eliminating no more than 20% of tree foliage. Also, only remove branches that are 2 inches thick.


This is shortening the height of a tree for aesthetic purposes to achieve a more pleasing shape and size.

Reduction may also be needed to restrict top levels from impeding structures or power lines. This method is also used to prevent younger trees from fast-growing to unacceptable heights. It involves careful selection of tree limbs for removal.

However, there are certain practices to avoid, such as topping (removing trunks or crucial branches). The consequence can result in large tree wounds, leaving them open to decay.

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, they 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, strengthen the plant, helping to produce a good crop.

2. Safety

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

As a result, the removal of weakened, broken, or hazardous branches will reduce the risk of further damages.

3. Growth Control

Overgrowth can weaken a tree if there is a loss in shape. As a result, the plant may not have enough strength to support itself. The growth may also become a nuisance to neighbors or pedestrians in 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 annoying eyesore. Moreover, it can even be detrimental to property values – the owners or those of the neighbors.

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

5. More Air and Sunlight

Pruning plants and trees are essential in allowing air and light through; thus, encouraging healthy growth. 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.

Sunlight is nature’s way of providing Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) [2], important in keeping the 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, 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 have teeth specially designed to cut easily and smoothly through live greenwood.

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

Pruning vs. Trimming 

These terms seem interchangeable 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

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

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