Bush Pruning Tips for Healthier Bushes

Simple guidelines for full, lush growth

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Make a chart of the types of bushes you have

Every bush has a characteristic shape and size, and for each there is a best pruning technique to bring out the maximum beauty of its flowers, branch color and structure. Some require little pruning; others more. For the best pruning results, identify all your bushes and learn about their unique attributes. Bushes vary widely by region, so the most reliable way to identify the ones you don't recognize is to take a clipping to a nursery. Usually the nursery will have reference books with a photo of the characteristic shape and can tell you the mature size, as well as special pruning instructions. Keep the key information on a rough sketch of your yard. Tip: You can prune almost everything in early spring. Just be sure to get to it!

Cut out dead, damaged, diseased and deranged branches

Prune out about one-third of the branches of bushes that grow from canes

Clip off branch tips to promote small-branch growth and denser foliage

This “heading off” technique channels more growth energy to smaller side branches, which will then fill in vacant areas. Make this cut at a side branch or 1/4 in. beyond a bud. Be selective and watch the results from the previous year to help gauge future growth. It works best on bushes and trees that grow mostly from one or a few stalks, as opposed to bushes that continually send up new shoots (suckers), like lilacs and forsythia.

Don't trim new growth with hedge shears!

Remove entire branches to shape the bush and control its size

Prune evergreens lightly

Make pruning cuts just beyond the branch “collar”

The branch collar is the bark swell that encircles the branch. If left intact, this collar will soon grow over and cover the wound. Don't leave stubs. They'll rot and might become diseased.

Don't force a big bush to conform to a small space by pruning