Texas AgriLife Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

March, 2008

Pruning Basics Help Insure Healthy Landscapes


from "Discover the Pleasure of Gardening" published by
the American Nursery & Landscape Association



To keep your landscape at its healthy best, start a regular pruning program. The following guidelines from the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) explain the basics. Nursery professionals are excellent sources of additional information:

  • Remove spent flowers to stimulate growth and additional bloom; otherwise, plant energy is used for seed production.

  • Prune spring-flowering plants, such as once-blooming roses, forsythias, or azaleas, after they bloom. Summer-flowering plants, like butterfly bush or crape myrtle, should be pruned just before spring growth. Consult your garden center if you are uncertain. Nonflowering ornamentals can be pruned in late winter, spring, or summer. Pruning in fall or early winter may encourage tender new growth that cannot withstand cold.

  • On bulbs, cut faded blooms to stop seed formation. Cut back foliage only after it has died naturally.

  • Branches damaged by diseases, insects, winter weather, or storms, should be pruned back to the healthy green wood. Remove branches that grow inward, rub against other branches, are leggy, or interfere with walkways or mowing.

  • Heading shortens plants and makes them more dense. Cut terminal portions of a branch to a point directly above the bud.

  • Thin to improve light penetration, shorten limbs, or direct growth. Cut back an entire limb or shoot to its origin at the trunk or branch. Cut at the branch collar, but leave the collar intact.

  • Tip-pinch to encourage thick foliage and new branching. Remove stem tips of new growth with the thumb and forefinger.

  • Renewal pruning brings abundant new growth. Plants such as forsythia and spiraea will benefit from a few of the oldest canes being cut back to 6 to 12 inches above ground.

  • Shearing promotes such new growth. Use hand shears on stems to crease a uniform surface.


Earth Kind uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum gardening and landscape performance while preserving and protecting the environment. For more information on Earth Kind Landscape Management Practices see our web site: http://earthkind.tamu.edu