The Grounds Guys
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Tools & Techniques for Successful Pruning

The Grounds Guys® can help you pack a one-two pruning punch by sharing our professional insider's knowledge of tools and techniques. Properly pruned, the trees and shrubs in your yard will boost your home's curb appeal by forming a healthy framework that showcases your home as well as other landscape plants. But if you don't prune your plants properly, you may do more harm than good by increasing their susceptibility to diseases.

A Tool Tutorial

Even the best pruning techniques can't achieve optimal results with improperly chosen or inferior tools. In a nutshell, choose pruning tools based on the size of the stems you're cutting or for a specific job.

Hand pruners. Choose these tools when you want to cut branches or stems less than 3/4 inch in diameter:

  • Scissor-type pruners -- also called bypass pruning shears -- have curved blades that overlap each other when you make a cut. The top blade is thinner, and it cuts past the thicker bottom blade. These pruners make precise, clean cuts.
  • Anvil-type pruners have a sharp upper blade that cuts against a flat lower blade. Anvil pruners aren't as precise and don't cut as cleanly as scissor pruners, but they're handy for cutting tough stems.
  • Snippers have sharp, pointed blades that make easy work out of deadheading flowers and trimming roots before you set out transplants.

Lopping shears. For cutting stems between 3/4 inch and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, reach for the lopping shears. These long-handled pruners make it easier for you to reach into plants, and to cut thick stems because of the leverage the long handles provide.

Pruning saws. When you need to cut lower branches greater than 1 1/2 inches in diameter that you can easily reach, a handheld pruning saw does the job.

Pole pruners. If a branch is overhead and out of your immediate reach, a pole pruner fits the bill. This tool allows you to use a pruner attached to a long pole so you don't have to stand on a ladder and risk injury by using another cutting tool. You simply engage the blade by pulling on a rope to cut branches up to 2 inches in diameter.

Tips and Techniques

When you cut a stem or branch, you create an open wound through which insects or disease organisms can potentially enter. Follow these guidelines to keep your plants as healthy as possible:

  • Use sharp tools that make smooth, clean cuts so plants can heal themselves as quickly as possible.
  • Don't tear the bark or shred stems by twisting them when you prune.
  • Cut branches just above a bud or node for faster and thicker re-growth. If you leave a long stub above a node, it will eventually decay before dying, which compromises the health of the plant.
  • When removing large tree branches, don't cut the branch flush with the trunk. Make your cut just outside the collar, which is an area of thickened tissue at the base of the branch.
  • Make cuts -- typically at a 45-degree angle -- so the cut surface faces outward. If the cut slants in toward the plant, the new growth will tend to grow inward, too, instead of outward for a fuller plant.
  • Prune out all branches from the interior of a shrub that cross each other. Branches that rub against each other may eventually cause wounds that cannot heal from the constant abrasion.

If you run aground with these tips or if you don't understand some of the terminology, call on The Grounds Guys. Our "sharp" experts can answer all your pruning questions.