Carol Chernega has been a writer, lecturer, and professional gardener for over 20 years. Her business, One Garden at a Time, specializes in hand pruning. She works mostly in the Eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA See her in action at:

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Why We Prune
by Carol Chernega - posted 02/08/18

Are your rhododendrons engulfing your house?  Does your husband get out the chain saw and say, “No problem”?

Controlling the size of a plant is one of the most common reasons we start pruning.  This frequently happens when people have ignored that old adage:  right plant in the right place.  A rhododendron that’s going to get 10 feet tall and six feet wide shouldn’t be planted a foot from the foundation of your home.  (Put away the chain saw, please.)

I frequently hear: “But the tag said it would only get 8 feet tall.”  Yes, but that refers to the mature height.  The growth rate slows as the plant matures, but it doesn’t stop growing.

So, when you’re planting something new, do be sure to plant it in the right place.  It’ll save you long hours of pruning in future years.

What other reasons might you have for pruning?

You should always remove dead or broken branches.  They can cause further problems if they’re not removed.  Dead branches can fall and hurt people and damage property.  Broken branches that aren’t removed can rip the bark off the trunk and damage the tree.

You should also remove diseased branches in order to prevent the disease from progressing further into the plant.

Suckers, growing out of the ground from the roots of the plant, should also be removed (see picture).Suckers should be removed

We may also prune to shape a plant such as topiary.  These should be pruned annually so they don’t lose their shape.  Once a topiary has lost its shape, it’ll take an expert many hours to get it back, if it’s not too far gone.

We may prune to promote more flowers or fruit.  When you remove buds, it helps the plant put more of its energy into making the fruit or flowers bigger.

Finally, we might prune to rejuvenate an older plant.  This is especially helpful for shrubs like lilacs and forsythia.

Those are the major reasons for pruning.  Can you think of others?  If so, do post your suggestions in the comment section.  And stay tuned for more pruning advice.





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