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Pruning Trees and Bushes: Here’s What You Need to Know

A man pruning a tree
Keep your plants in shape with regular tree and bush pruning. This will help them to develop more healthily.

Why Should You Prune Trees and Bushes?

Trees aren’t pruned in nature. They grow there without any influence from people. However, you should prune ornamental examples in the garden from time to time. This will keep them in shape and they will also flower more. In addition, you will protect the plants from over-aging with regular tree and bush pruning.

The aim of pruning for ornamental plants in particular is increased flowering. And a beautiful shape is also important for these plants in the garden. Pruning fruit trees ensures a more bountiful harvest in particular.

Which Trees and Bushes Should Be Pruned?

Bosch secateurs
Pruning trees and bushes does not mean you need heavy equipment. Battery-operated electric secateurs will make the work much easier.

Trees are generally quite easy-care. Occasional thinning is often the only important thing here. This applies in particular for ornamental cherry and crab apple trees. These like to form dense crowns.

Plants such as roses, clematis or even spring and summer flowering ornamental bushes on the other hand, require regular pruning. You should reach for the secateurs or a pruning saw once a year for these. The handy battery-operated pruning saw Keo from Bosh is an example of an ideal helper here.

Which Types of Bush Should Not Be Pruned?

Some trees don’t tolerate pruning well. They are hesitant to grow shoots again afterwards. Other trees only grow into their typical shape with age. Pruning would impede their natural growth or even destroy it completely.

Trees such as birch, flowering dogwoods, beech, golden maple, ginkgo, golden elm, laburnum, magnolia, staghorn sumac, Japanese maple and downy Japanese maple should therefore not be pruned. You should only reach for the secateurs or pole-mounted pruner here if a storm has caused damage. With the UniversalChainPole 18 from Bosch, you can also reach branches which grow in difficult to access places on the tree.

Conifers do not generally tolerate pruning. The only exception here is the yew tree.

When and How Often Is It Time to Prune?

We must differentiate between two things when it comes to the frequency for tree and bush pruning:

  • Tree pruning
  • Regularly pruning ornamental trees
Pole-mounted pruner UniversalChainPole 18 from Bosch
With a pole-mounted pruner you don’t need a ladder to reach the high branches. You can work safely from the ground.

You can be very flexible about planning tree pruning. You don’t have to use a chainsaw or pole-mounted pruner every year. However, with decorative bushes it makes sense to consider pruning every year. At the very latest you should shape them with a pruning saw every two to three years.

The best time to plan tree and bush pruning depends on the species and flowers of the tree. You can prune trees in the winter or summer. Both times have advantages and disadvantages. In the summer, the cut wounds on the tree will heal better. However in the winter, you can see the branches better and prune them more easily.

Pruning in the summer is suitable for trees that have problems healing wounds. The ornamental cherry tree is an example of these. Maple and walnut bleed if they are pruned in late winter. This means the roots force ground water into the tree. If often runs out again at the top unused. This does not damage the plant, but it doesn’t look very attractive.

Therefore, it is advisable to prune the trees in late winter or in good time in the spring. You should no longer prune from August. This will weaken the trees as at this time, they are already drawing critical reserves from the leaves into the trunk and roots. These reserves are important for the new shoots in the spring. If you prune the tree you will also remove these nutrients.

Pruning branches with secateurs
Prune your trees no later than August. Otherwise you will weaken the plants. ©MSG/Folkert Siemens

Proper pruning of ornamental bushes promotes flowering. However, if you prune at the wrong time you can also completely destroy the flowers. So you should prune spring bloomers after they have flowered. You can prune summer bloomers in the winter or in good time in the spring.

Leave flowering bushes to grow uninterrupted in the first five years and do not prune them at first.

When pruning observe the legally prescribed pruning periods. These are to protect birds and other animals. You can find out from your local council when you can prune and when not.

The Correct Plant Choice for Your Garden

Trees often grow more readily than hobby gardeners expect. Here, the plants quickly become to big or also too dense. Before you’re looking at wild growth which could impede neighbouring plants or get to close to your house, reach for the chainsaw. You can quickly get your trees back in order with the UniversalChain 18 from Bosch, for example.

Regularly thin or narrow the crown of trees that grow rapidly. Bear in mind that heavy pruning stimulates many trees to grow vigorously.

If a tree becomes too big, you will need to prune it again and again. If you only have limited space in the garden you should choose a slow growing variety or one that stays small.

Pruning Tree Crowns: Here’s How It’s Done

Pruning an apricot tree
Thin or prune your tree crowns regularly. ©iStock/amriphoto

If you want to prune the crown of a tree you need to proceed with care. You should certainly not prune around the crown at any height with a saw. This will create countless dense shoots. The plants then go bare on the inside.

Instead, only ever always only prune the main branches. The correct place is above a side shoot branching off underneath. The specialist term for this is ‘drop-crotch’ pruning. This makes the crown smaller, but it retains its shape. Moreover, the sap pressure is then also distributed evenly on the buds.

If you do not cut the middle shoot and upper side shoot, the crown will be narrower, but the tree won’t be smaller.

Thinning Tree Crowns: Here’s How to Do It

Thinning is an ever recurring task in the garden. Ornamental trees require this care. Prune the tree or bush as required. You will have to thin ornamental cherry or crab apple trees more frequently with a chainsaw or pruning saw, as these form a very dense crown.

In the inside of the crown, remove all the dense and parallel growing branches and twigs. Prune out branches which cross over one another as well. In this way the tree will gain more light. You will also prevent fungal diseases.

Pruning Globe Cut and Pollard Trees

Cared for garden trees
If you prune your trees or bushes regularly the whole garden will appear beautiful and cared for. ©Friedrich Strauss Gartenbildagentur / Strauss, Friedrich

You need to prune trees such as Indian Bean Tree ‘Nana’ and globe maple trees differently to other trees. Cut all the shoots on this plants to 20 cm to 40 cm. Place the saw or secateurs above the cutting point from the previous year. This will keep the cutting wounds smaller.

In general, it would also be enough to do this pruning every two to three years. However, if the plants should stay small, you should prune every year. Shorten globe maples before the middle of January. Globe robinia and Indian Bean Trees can still be pruned until March.

Pruning Groups of Ornamental Bushes

The pruning time is particularly important for ornamental bushes.

Plants that flower in the spring such as forsythia, flowering quince or buttercup bushes should be pruned every two to three years after flowering. Then take away a third of the oldest shoots near the soil.

Plants such as deutzia, Linnaea amabilis, weigela or viburnum that flower in the early summer should be pruned every three years. Remove a good third of the old main shoots from January until the start of March. Trim them close to the soil.

Ornamental bushes that flower in the summer such as California lilacs, potentilla or buddleia only form flowers on newly formed shoots. Cut them off about 10 cm above the soil after the frost. Then they will form lots of new shoots.

Correcting the Growth Shape with Pruning

You can correct growing mistakes in planting with tree or bush pruning. If you prune back a plant, this generally results in strong regrowth, as the plants want to maintain a balance between the branch mass and the root mass.

If a tree grows more shoots on one side, prune the branches on this side more heavily than on the other. You can leave the other side completely unpruned. As soon as the new shoots have become stronger, you can stimulate them to branch more with a light pruning.

How to Care for Larger Cutting Wounds

Cutting wound on a tree
After tree pruning take care of the cutting wounds on the plants. Then everything can heal well. ©MSG/Frank Schuberth, Prod.: Dieke van Dieken, Karina Nennstiel

Clean cuts that heal quickly can be made with high-quality gardening equipment. However, if frayed edges remain after cutting you need to treat them. Cut them back with a sharp knife. This is enough to care for small cuts.

If you have removed larger branches, brush the wound edges with a wound sealing agent. This forms an artificial bark. This helps the cut heal better. Leave the middle of the cutting wound open. This is generally dry and can heal better in this way.

Pruning Trees and Bushes: Here’s What You Need to Know
Pruning trees and wood is not only important for plant appearances. If you keep them in shape they will reward you with particularly extensive flowering. We tell you what it comes down to.