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Pruning Basics: Keep Your Yard in Tip-Top Shape by Pruning Landscape Plants

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RISMEDIA, June 2, 2011—Pruning takes many forms. Whether it’s cutting old, overgrown shrubs to the ground for rejuvenation or removing faded blooms from roses, regular pruning creates healthy growth and beautiful plants. Armed with a little knowledge and the right tools, you can tackle pruning with confidence—and get terrific results.

When to Prune
Knowing the right time to prune is crucial. Pruning at the wrong time typically won’t damage plants, but it can sacrifice that year’s flowers or fruit. Use this guide to schedule pruning in your yard.

Late spring/early summer. Prune spring- flowering shrubs and trees which flower before July 1 immediately after the flowers fade. Plants in this category include forsythia, bridal wreath spiraea, weigela, and mock orange.

Midsummer. Several deciduous trees produce a heavy sap flow in early spring. Pruning branches in this season won’t kill the tree, but the sap flow can bleed onto outdoor furnishings, patios, cars, and walking areas. Avoid a sticky situation by pruning these trees in midsummer. Bleeder trees include maple, dogwood, elm, walnut, and birch.

Fall/early winter. Spring- and summer-blooming hawthorns and viburnums are typically grown for their fruits, which attract wildlife. Don’t prune these plants after flowering. Instead, allow fruits to mature, and then prune plants after wildlife consumes fruits.

Winter/early spring. Prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs in winter or early spring, before new growth emerges. These plants include abelia, butterfly bush, peegee hydrangea, sweet bay magnolia, and hybrid tea roses.

Good to Know
High-quality pruning tools will last many years with proper maintenance. Keep cutting surfaces clean and sharp. Lubricate metal parts regularly to prevent rust. Use tools only for pruning plants—using them to cut other materials can dull and even damage blades.

The Techniques to Know
No matter what kind of plant you’re pruning, you’ll use three basic techniques. Pinching is typically done by hand, using thumb and forefinger. It’s a good method to increase bushiness and curtail and control plant size.

Thinning involves removing branches back to the trunk, a main branch or the soil line. With thinning cuts, don’t remove the branch collar (the wrinkled area near the trunk or main branch). This area contains the cells needed to heal the cutting wound. Slicing into the branch collar creates an opening for infection and disease to enter healthy wood.

Heading back shortens branches to a healthy bud or lateral branch. Place cuts roughly 1/4 inch above the bud or branch.

This article is excerpted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine. For more information, please visit www.lowes.com.

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