The Basis of Pruning a Plant

When you want to prune a plant there are three rules that should be used in this order;

    • Remove any dead, diseased or otherwise damaged parts
    • Remove any branches or limbs that are crossing over each other
    • Prune to the shape that you are after. Eg – A vase shape for a crab Apple tree (used for its decorative small fruit and usually dark red leaves) so the light penetrates into the middle of the tree producing flowers that result in the crab apples.

If you want a ‘nice’ looking tree covered in flowers, then you prune to the shape and height that you are after.

Click here to watch Bob pruning a bush
A plant may be too tall for a particular location. Eg – Under the eaves – You would always look up when planting to ensure the plant is far enough away from the eves or power lines so it does not need pruning when it has grown too taller.
The top of the plant could be cut off so it does not hit the eves, walls, scrape paint off or create noise when the wind blows the plant against the wall.

The exception to pruning the top off a plant is for Palms as they have only one growing point. If the top is cut off there are no buds to shoot from, so the plant stem stays green but does not shoot out any leaves from the sides or the top.
Most (but not all) Bromeliads have a minimal root system mainly to hold it in the ground or in a split in a rock. If they become too tall you can cut them off at the bottom to reduce their height and allow the stub to re-shoot. Or let the cut stem dry for 2 to 3 days to seal it against rotting, then replanted it to create another plant. Hold it in place with a support stick until new roots form.

Where a bush has become too bushy and scrapes against the wall or is growing over a path, then this should be cut back. The plant needs to be cut back further than just the edge of the path as it will soon grow out over the path again. Cut it back further than the path edge so it will take longer before it needs to be pruned back again.

A hedge that is pruned with a flat top and sides needs to be cut so that it is slightly wider at the bottom than the top. This is to let the sun shine on the lower leaves to let them produce some food for those leaves so they can continue to grow rather than die and leave the bottom of the hedge thin, or dead at the bottom.

Plants that are variegated have little or no chlorophyll in their non-green parts so do not grow as vigorously as the plants that have all green leaves. If a plant has both green and variegated leaves the green leaves must be pruned out or they will take over the plant and make the plant an all green plant. The variegation can be white, cream, pink, red or a combination of all of them. The variegation can be different on each leaf or the same; it just depends on the plant.

Today’s Did You Know…?

Most variegation on plant leaves are due to a change in the genetic structure and will only be reproduced if that plant is propagated by cuttings or tissue culture; ie. Vegetative propagation, and usually not from seed; ie. Sexual propagation.

There are a few plants that are always variegated; eg. Hibiscus “Cooperi”.

When you have variegation where there should not be any, (especially on a dark coloured flower; eg. White spots), then this is almost always a virus disease and as there are no real cures for a plant virus, that plant needs to be removed and destroyed (into the rubbish bin). If the plant is left in the garden or bush-house, than sap sucking insects (aphids), will spread that virus to other plants by feeding on the infected plant then feeding on another plant transmitting the virus in their saliva.