How to prune shrubs


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Difficulty: Low

This task should be fairly straightforward regardless of your gardening experience.

Pruning your plants, shrubs and trees is the best way to encourage new growth and keep them looking their best. Learning how to prune is mainly a matter of how confident you are, but once you know what you’re doing, it gets easier every time.


Step 1. Knowing where to start

The two main reasons for pruning plants are health and balance. The health of a plant will be improved by removing old and damaged stems, this promotes new growth which in turn increases the plant’s ability to produce more flowers or fruit.

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Step 2. Removing dead, damaged or diseased branches

When pruning a shrub, start with the three D’s:  Dead branches, damaged branches and diseased branches. Remove any of the above as soon as you see them to help keep the shrub healthy, and make any later pruning easier. Remember, hard pruning (cutting right back) promotes more vigorous growth than light pruning.


Step 3. Cut above the buds

Congested shrubs can suffer from moulds and fungus due to a lack of airflow around the stems. To prevent this happening, prune shrubs as soon as you see them getting out of shape. Cut just above an outward pointing bud as this is where the new growth will start. Your shrub should then have a more natural look.

Top tips
  • The secret to good pruning is to make sure the tools you’re using are sharp. If the tools aren’t cutting the branches cleanly and the cut is ragged and torn, infection and pests can easily affect the plant.
  • Reduce the amount of pruning you need to do in your garden by planting the right size shrubs for your borders or pots. 

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How to prune spring-flowering shrubs

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