COLUMN: Pruning takes knowledge, practice to be successful

Jodie Parolini

Why do we prune our plants?

Proper pruning enhances the beauty of almost any landscape tree and shrub. It trains the plant to grow a certain way and minimizes the hazard of limbs interfering with power lines or growing over structures. It can also remove weak spots on the plant that will break when strong winds or ice storms come to town.

By removing undesirable growth, the plant is healthier and has more of a visual appeal. Removal of current year's faded flowers and fruit clusters may promote flower buds for the following season. Proper pruning can restore a youthful, natural growth habit in certain overgrown shrubs. Pruning can also maintain the plant to a more desirable size for a space.

Pruning, like any other skill, requires knowledge and practice to achieve success.

A homeowner looking to prune their plants will need a lopping shear, hand pruner, folding saw for tight places, bow saw for limbs, and leather gloves. If a power saw is needed for cuts, then it is recommended to hire a professional arborist who is insured against personal injury and property damage. Once you are done pruning then store equipment in a dry room.

Take care of your tools to make them last for years to come. When pruning diseased plants, disinfect all shears and saw blades after each cut to prevent spreading the disease to healthy plants. Dip the tools in rubbing alcohol or a solution consisting of one part bleach and nine parts waters. At the end of the day, oil the pruning equipment to avoid rust. Keep cutting edges sharp by using a few passes with a good oilstone.

Research has found wound dressing or tree paint is not needed after cuts. In fact, dressings may harbor disease organisms rather than exclude them. Wound dressings can also slow the wound callousing process.

Pruning can happen at any time of the year. However, it depends on the certain plant on when it is best to prune it. Pruning it at the wrong time will not immediately kill the plant, but it is continuous improper pruning that kills the plant over the years. That's why it is important to prune when it will result in the least amount of damage to the plant.

If a homeowner wants to learn more about how to prune their plants and the different requirements of their certain plant, then they should read OSU Factsheet HLA-6409 or reach out to their local County Extension educator.

Jodie Parolini is agriculture educator for the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.


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