When you prune your plants you must be selective. The act of pruning consists of removing branches that have either died or are diseased, or have become infested with a fungal infection of some sort. Pruning in the spring before the new growth begins may reveal damage caused by the weather, occasionally by animals but more often by children! Cutting back this kind of damaged growth will give the plant the best chance of recovery and keep it looking healthy.
Depending on the species of shrub you are pruning you may find that each has individual pruning needs, but in each case you should research the proper action to take and make sure that you implement it properly. When pruning in a general sense make sure that you leave an inch or so above the last healthy shoot before you cut. Removing dead wood like this gives the rest of the shrub tree a chance to remain healthy and encourages the plant to put all its efforts into growing new shoots.
While carrying out regular maintenance in the garden, why not use the pruning to create a special appearance, for example, cutting a hedge into a specific design? It is easily incorporated into a regular pruning cycle, and although you will want to check the shrub’s growth by pruning, you can also control the direction that the branches take. By pruning like this you can “kill two birds with one stone” as the old saying goes, and in a season or two, with regular pruning you will find the shrub becoming trained to your design.
Some species of flowering shrub are more akin to small trees and will grow up to 20 feet tall. If you have one of these varieties, especially if it borders a neighboring property you must make sure that it does not encroach onto their land. The easiest way to control a plant like this is by regular pruning. If you do this annually, you should be able to keep the shape of the shrub intact while ensuring it does not cause any dispute with your neighbour.
Just as important, and with potentially disastrous consequences, is allowing the branches to become too long where they might break off and fall onto a vehicle or worse still, an unsuspecting person.. Any overhanging branches should be cut back, particularly if they are damaged or diseased. Once again, an annual inspection will reveal those in danger so that they can be attended to in a timely fashion.
Shrubs will grow as large as they are allowed to, and without proper and regular pruning they can become dangerous and out of control. When planting any shrub or small tree take a moment to visualize what it will look like in ten years’ time if left unchecked. Choose a location for it that will allow it to grow in a healthy way, and make sure you have enough access around it for pruning and regular check-ups.
Follow the advice of the nursery or grower for pruning advice for specific plant types, and make sure you are not pruning them at the wrong time of year. If you prune in the wrong season you can end up with a plant that is struggling to flower; even worse, you may unwittingly damage the shrub and leave it susceptible to fungal or pest attack.