Pruning Plants 101

by MOTORHEAD Tools Team on March 16, 2021

Knowing when and how to prune back various types of plants is crucial for garden upkeep as well as keeping your plant pals healthy.

If you’re a gardener, of course you’d want your labour of love to bear adequate fruits, veggies and herbs. By knowing how to properly prune, you’ll be aiding your plants for a successful growth season year after year.

For all those indoor succulents, knowing how to encourage maximum growth and vitality is critical for beautiful living spaces.

Roses, flowers and other plants that beautify your outdoor space benefit tremendously from proper care. Taking proper care of them only enhances and beautifies your outdoor space.

By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with information about pruning all the major types of plants you’d likely have in your home or garden.


Why do we prune plants?


Pruning plants is more than just getting rid of dead leaves. Let’s outline a few of the top reasons one would undertake the pruning process on your pretty plants:


  • Maintain plant health
  • Cut out dead, dying, diseased or damaged wood/stems to avoid plant infection
  • Remove crossing or rubbing branches
  • Maintain good air circulation 
  • Remove unwanted shoots
  • Control plant size and shape


Know when to prune plants

So you’ve heard of pruning. But did you know the importance of knowing when to do this? If you prune plants at the wrong time, you might be doing more harm than good. The right time to prune will depend on the plant, what you want the outcome to be and the amount of pruning that needs to take place. If you’re just trying to remove dead leaves, that can be done all year round. Who doesn’t like a good trim every few months?

When you’re thinking of pruning trees and shrubs, especially those that flower, you’re going to want to begin to prune new growth around the end of winter in March or April.

Other trees, such as fruit trees and rhododendrons should be pruned immediately after they bloom. This will ensure they’re ready to go for the next round of blooms. Find a comprehensive list on which months are best for plant pruning with this guide.


Tools you’ll need to begin pruning your plants

Like most things in life, if you want to do the job, you’re only going to be as good as the set of tools you’re given. Let’s go through some top level garden tools needed for pruning plants. 

Hand pruners - For thin stems and leaves



Lopper - For thicker stems and shrubs


Splitting axe - For thick branches on trees

These three tools above are the perfect starter kit to get you on your way to gardening like a pro!

Know how to prune various plants

No matter what type of plant or tree you are going to prune, there are a few basic steps that can be applied to all of them: 

  • Inspect your plant growth
  • Identify which branches need to be cut
  • Keep an eye out for diseased or dead plant limbs
  • Make heading cuts where appropriate

Let’s go through some of the more obvious types of plants and how you should go about pruning them.


Pruning flowering trees, shrubs and vines



Pruning flowering trees, shrubs and vines can happen lightly throughout the year. Make sure you’re looking at the correct limbs to support the tree, shrub and vine canopies. You don’t want to snip anything that forms the main part of the plant


Pruning fruit and berries


When pruning fruit and berries, what you’re going to want to do is remove the current year's growth. This enables new growth to appear and increase the likelihood of success with your next batch!  Keep an eye on the main stem, remove any dead branches, leaves or flowers.


How to prune evergreen trees

The main purpose of pruning evergreen trees is to control their shape and size. Do this by removing any dead, diseased or damaged limbs. If you have a particularly older evergreen, you may prune older branches in order to make room for new ones to grow. 

Pruning perennial plants and shrubs

Make sure you’re cutting  the flower stalks right down to the base. It’s important to cut back the dead flowers to the next set of flower buds on the flower stalk or shrub. Again, observe the plant and make sure any diseased or dead extensions are removed gently, and at an angle.

Don’t forget to prune your houseplants


Houseplants can often be forgotten about, but pruning them is just as important! You can do this all year round. Make sure you’re removing dead leaves or branches for new growth. Top tip, pruning houseplants is a great way to maintain their shape and size.


Pruning Succulents

Pruning succulents from time to time can help prevent rot, encourage new growth, and aid your succulents to live longer healthy lives. Pull away dead leaves, cut the tops of some of them, especially if you have a succulent arrangement.  


Armed with the proper pruning techniques and basics, you’ll be able to prune any major type of plant, including trees, shrubs, fruits, berries and perennial plants.

You might be in an apartment currently, but with the knowledge you have now, you’ll be able to grow your pruning knowledge and utilize it for years to come. Make use of that valuable knowledge when it comes time to move into that dream home with that big garden or yard.

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