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The Dirt

Pruning Tips and Techniques

Pruning is an essential gardening skill. When you prune correctly, you encourage healthy growth and flowering (in the case of flowering plants), as well as good looks. For most shrubs and trees, it helps to prune at the right time. Some are best pruned in winter; some right after flowering.

Whether you are a beginner or just need a refresher, below you’ll find links to pruning articles and videos on the following topics:

Pruning tools | Basic pruning techniques | Pruning shrubs and vines | Pruning trees | Pruning roses |


Guide to Pruning The ultimate guide to pruning strategies and techniques
In Guide to Pruning, FG Editors explain how to prune hundreds of plants. Whether you are new to gardening or a veteran of many seasons, you’ll refer to this guide again and again.   Buy the book…


Pruning tools

Video Pruning Tools Video: A Survey of Pruning Tools
Whatever you are pruning, the right tool makes all the difference. In this video, horticulturist Lee Reich examines an array of pruning implements. You’ll learn what the tools do, and what to consider when shopping for a new hand pruner, lopper, saw, pole pruner, or hedge shears.   Watch the video…
Sharpen Prunes Video: How to Sharpen Pruners
It’s easier to prune with a sharp blade than a dull one, and a cleaner cut heals faster and more efficiently than one made with a dull blade. Lee Reich shows you how to sharpen a hand pruner.    Watch the video…
Sharpening Pruners Sharpening Pruners
Arborist Melissa Levangie explains how to clean your pruners, then sharpen them using diamond files.   Read more…


Basic pruning techniques

Cut plant Video: Where to Cut
Where you make your pruning cuts makes a difference in how quickly they heal. In this video, Lee Reich, author of The Guide to Pruning Book, demonstrates best practices.   Watch the video…
Maintenance Pruning Maintenance Pruning
Regular pruning enhances the look and health of your garden. Get an overview on the benefits of maintenance pruning and a general idea of when to prune early- and late-flowering shrubs.   Read more…
Video: Pinching Stem Tips Video: Pinching Stem Tips
Pinching stem tips is a form of pruning that can make plants look neat, as well as encourage branching and bushier growth. This video will show you how the technique.   Watch the video…
Video: Pinching Coleus Stems Video: Pinching Coleus Stems
Coleus and many other annuals and tender perennials tend to get leggy, but you can promote dense growth by pinching back the stems. Associate editor Michelle Gervais shows you what to do.   Watch the video…
Video: Root Pruning Container Plants Video: Root Pruning Container Plants
If your container plant is rootbound, or just growing a little too vigorously for your liking, root pruning can help.


Pruning shrubs and vines

Trimming a Formal Hedge Trimming a Formal Hedge
A straight edge is the hallmark of a formally trimmed hedge, and in this article, John Sosnowski, horticulturist at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, explains how he achieves this look using stakes and string as a guide. He also offers a list of shrubs that are suitable candidates for formal hedges.   Read more…     Watch the video… 
Pruning Subshrubs Pruning Subshrubs
Subshrubs such as lavender, sage, thyme, and wormwood require special pruning techniques to keep them looking good. Timing is critical for ensuring healthy, dense growth.   Read more…
 How to Prune Cane-Growing Shrubs How to Prune Cane-Growing Shrubs
Cane-growing shrubs are shrubs that grow from multiple canes, not a single trunk. Examples are forsythia, viburnum, lilac, and spirea, among many others. Maintenance pruning keeps them shapely, but even for overgrown shrubs there’s a remedy.   Read more…
Pruning Clematis Pruning Clematis
Your clematis may be a spring bloomer, repeat bloomer, or late-season bloomer. Each type calls for a different pruning approach, and in this article, pruning guru Lee Reich explains what to do.   Read more… 
Pruning Crape Myrtles Pruning Crape Myrtles
Many people plant crape myrtles for their vibrant summer color, few people prune them correctly. Find out how it should be done.   Read more… 
Pruning Hollies Pruning Hollies
Learn when and how to prune your hollies, whether you have deciduous, rounded, intermediate, or pyramidal plants.   Read more…
Pruning Hydrangeas Pruning Hydrangeas
First, determine if your hydrangea blooms on old wood (blooms appear in early summer and fade) or on new wood (blooms appear later and continue until frost). Then prune accordingly.   Read more….   Watch a video…
Pruning Lilacs Pruning Lilacs
Whether it’s an ancient shrub or a vigorous young plant, all lilacs can benefit from some well-placed cuts.   Read more…
Three Ways to Prune Rhododendrons Three Ways to Prune Rhododendrons
Find out how to maintain, shape, or rejuvenate rhododendrons to keep them healthy and attractive.   Read more…
Pruning and Training Wisteria Pruning and Training Wisteria
Well-placed summer and winter cuts will keep this vigorous vine manageable.   Read more…


Pruning trees

How to Prune Conifers How to Prune Conifers
Conifers are not as forgiving as other garden shrubs and trees, so proper pruning is critical. Bert Cregg, an associate professor in the horticulture and forestry departments at Michigan State University, explains how to prune conifers with fan-like, flat, and bunched needles in this article and in the accompanying videos, linked below.   Read more…
Video: Pruning Conifers for Health Video: Pruning Conifers for Health
Dead, diseased, or damaged branches should be removed when the problem arises.   Watch the video…
 Video: Pruning Arborvitae, Junipers, and Chamaecyparis Video: Pruning Arborvitae, Junipers, and Chamaecyparis
Conifers with fan-like needles will not form new growth on old wood, so judicious pruning is advised.   Watch the video… 
Pruning Pines Pruning Pines
Prune pine trees when they are actively growing.   Watch the video…
Pruning Firs, Douglas Firs, and Spruces Pruning Firs, Douglas Firs, and Spruces
Control height and encourage fullness by pruning during dormancy.   Watch the video…
How to Prune an Old Apple Tree How to Prune an Old Apple Tree
Pruning can bring an old apple tree back to health and let you reap the fruit of your labor. Find out how it should be done.   Read more…
Pruning Japanese Maples Pruning Japanese Maples
The right cuts reveal a branch pattern that looks good with leaves or without.   Read more…


Pruning roses

Out with the Old Canes, In with the New Out with the Old Canes, In with the New
Removing old canes should be part of any rose maintenance program. But how do you know it’s old, how much do you take out?.   Read more…
What Time of Year Should I Prune My Roses? What Time of Year Should I Prune My Roses?
Timing does matter, and here’s a real simple answer from Paul Zimmerman, our rose blogger.   Read more…See also:
Summer Pruning Roses in a Hot Climate
Can Roses be Pruned in Fall?
 Video: Pruning Climbing Roses Video: Pruning Climbing Roses
With help from Paul Zimmerman, you’ll be able to prune your climbing roses with confidence.   Watch the video…Related information…
The One Essential Thing to Know when Pruning Climbing Roses
Pruning Climbing Roses
Video: Pruning Shrub Roses Video: Pruning Shrub Roses
Peter Kukielski, curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, demonstrates the best way to prune shrub roses.   Watch the video…More videos on this topic…
Pruning Shrub Roses that Grow New Canes from the Base Every Year
Pruning Shrub Roses that Build a Structure over Time
Video: How to Prune Floribunda Roses Video: How to Prune Floribunda Roses
Peter Kukielski, curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, demonstrates the best way to prune floribunda roses.   Watch the video…
Video: How to Prune Hybrid Tea Roses Video: How to Prune Hybrid Tea Roses
Peter Kukielski, curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, demonstrates the best way to prune hybrid tea roses.   Watch the video…
Video Collection: Planting and Pruning Roses Video Collection: Planting and Pruning Roses
View videos on planting roses in containers and feeding, mulching, pruning, and preparing roses for winter.   Watch the videos…



View Comments


  1. BombasticTurtle 03/05/2012

    Hello Ruth! You can call me a new gardener, but one that is cautios and will research rather than go crazy at the local nursery with buying plants and then not knowing what to do with the trees or where to plant and what the outcome might be in say ... five to seven years!

    I am a great fan and follower of www.finegardening.com and have read your articles on pruning, pruners and how to maintain them. It has helped me greatly ... and I am taking the liberty on FB so that many more like me can take advantage of what you discussed.

  2. user-7008295 11/03/2016

    any pruning makes how fully learning im can?

  3. GraftinGardeners 02/29/2020

    Thanks for sharing such articles on tree pruning, they have helped our young employees to learn more about pruning.

    Thanks, Adam Arnold.

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