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

September 2004

Pruning Basics

from 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 & Landsape Association (ANLA) explains the basics. Nursery professionals are an excellent source 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 azaleas after they bloom. Summer-flowering plants like butterfly bush or crape myrtle should be pruned just before spring growth. [Pruning crape myrtle again after the first flush of flowering will usually bring on repeat bloom--eds.] Consult your garden center if you're uncertain. Non-flowering 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 or storms should be pruned back to the healthy green wood. Remove branches that grow inward, rub against other branches, are leggy, or those interfering with walkways or nowing.

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

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

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

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

  • Shearing promotes lush new growth. Use hand shears on stems to create a uniform surface.