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How to prune your plants


Pruning and cutting back is important if your plants are to give their best display or crop, and to prevent them outgrowing their space. Most woody ornamental plants are best pruned in the dormant season or, if they are spring flowering, as soon as the flowers begin to fade. Most herbaceous plants can be cut back after flowering or at the end of the growing season.

How to do it


Where buds are visible, prune just above them to prevent leaving a long 'snag' of stem which could encourage die-back. Allow 3mm - 4mm so as not to damage the bud itself.

Where plants have alternately positioned buds on their stems, make the cut at a slight angle in the direction in which the bud is pointing.

If the plant has pairs of buds opposite each other, make the cut straight if you want both buds to grow. Alternatively cut at an angle to remove one of the pair where a single stem is required.

Cut out any old or dead wood at the base of the plant to encourage strong new shoots from the base. You may need to use long-handled loppers for more leverage if the wood is thick and tough.

To rejuvenate old shrubs or coppice shrubs that are grown for the colour of their stems, hard prune all the stems down to 10cm - 15cm above their base during the dormant season. Don't worry if there are no buds visible.

Where stems are growing close together or crossing, cut out one to prevent them from rubbing together which may damage the bark and cause die-back or disease.

Cut back flowered stems of herbaceous plants down to ground level, leaving the clump of leaves at the base. This stops the plants wasting their energy in forming seed.

Our tip

Always make sure you use sharp secateurs and loppers when pruning. If they are blunt they crush and tear, leading to frost damage or disease.

Where possible, always prune back to an outward facing bud. This reduces the amount of growth in the centre of the plant so that it doesn't become congested with shoots.

Remove thick stems and branches using a pruning saw. For large branches, leave 1cm - 2cm where it joins the main stem, so that the tree or shrub can heal the wound.

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Talkback: How to prune your plants
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Snowhite 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Hi, I moved house in March of this year and a beginner in gardening. I have lots of over grown shrubs and two large trees, I have five tropical trees, which three I pulled from the root during the summer. they were pretty dead and they are growing again. I have so many different plants, I don't know where to start!! please can you help? am I too late to do some pruning?

debzee66 24/11/2011 at 15:29

after the heavy snow earlier this year, my hebes seem to have turned black, along with other shrubs... but there seems some life in some of the twigs, do I pull them all up and start again or give them all a good prune ?

StevieG 24/11/2011 at 15:30

my hebe got that black colour after the snow,i left it be and fed it in the spring,its looking good now.

rosalie2 11/03/2012 at 20:03

how and when should I prune tree lavatera.

Wendy7 22/03/2012 at 22:01

Do I need to "seal" the wound after cutting off side shoots from the main stem of large cordyline, if so how ?

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