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Pruning Tips

December 15, 2023

Most plants and trees benefit from pruning. It promotes branching, leaf formation, and increased blooms.  A regular pruning regimen also allows you to check for diseased or decayed material in the plant and get it removed before it causes a problem.

All plants will require some form of pruning throughout their life.

Flowers & Grasses

Anything that grows back from the roots such as flowers, hostas, ferns, or grasses can be cut down to the ground .

Flowers: Dead heading/prune out dead flowers, removing dead/damaged leaves and stems. 

Grasses: These plants need only one pruning a year, usually done in the winter such as February. Cut the entire plant down to about 6-8 inches from the ground. This will make room for the new growth and allow for better air flow and less crowding. 

Pruning Trees & Shrubs

There are 2 main types of pruning for trees/shrubs: 

  1. Rejuvenating (mostly shrubs): typically done in the winter months when the plants are completely dormant. This type of pruning is utilized for promoting new and healthy growth as well as maintaining healthy shrub size and scale. 
  2. Structural (trees/shrubs): this type of pruning can be done anytime of the year. This is used to help remove any damaged /disease branches, spent flower heads, or rouge branches. Structural pruning is just that – helping the plants maintain their shape, desired structure, and healthy growth habit. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the wood at one time.


Most evergreens will show you how far you can prune them back because the needles or leaves are no longer present on the interior of the branches.  A light trim leaving a couple of inches of the needles or branches will keep them in check and looking good.  You can cut them back to the bare branches if you need a size reduction, just know that it may take a season or two for them to flush out new greenery.


Most deciduous and flowering shrubs benefit from a light pruning each year.  Feel confident to remove 1/3-1/2 of the plant.  This will promote branching and more blooms the next season.  This practice will also help keep shrubs at the proper size.  

Some larger shrubs (such as crape myrtles, butterfly bushes, and roses) that grow from the base of the plant need to be pruned back to 1′-2′, tall depending on size.  

A few varieties of Hydrangea and some other flowering shrubs only bloom on “old” wood. This means you need to leave at least 1/2 of the branch length that is covered in leaves in order to get any blooms the next year. The “new” wood on the current year’s branches will not produce flowers.  You may need to prune them more severely every 3-5 years to keep them to the proper size, just know they will not produce flowers the next season.

Pruning Ornamental Trees

Ornamental trees (20’ or less in height) typically are pruned once a year. This yearly pruning aides in structural integrity, shape, and prevention of winter/wind damage. 

Pruning Tips

It is important to always use sharp pruners or hedge trimmers. Using dull blades can crush or shatter branches which can kill the branch and/or invite fungus and disease into the plant.

If you have a worry of disease or fungus on a particular plant, be sure to clean your pruners or hedge trimmers with a 10% bleach solution before continuing, to prevent spreading to other plants.

Light pruning and deadheading can be done at any time, but heavier pruning or “rejuvenation” pruning is best done during dormancy in the cold months of the year.

Benefits of Pruning: 

  • Air flow: Pruning allows for more air flow within and around the plants. Improved air circulation helps prevent fungus damage.
  •  Reduced crowding: Removing targeted new growth allows the plants to maintain their shape, structure, and proper growth direction. It is never healthy to have plants touching one another – unless you are creating a ‘hedge’ effect. 
  • Growth: Stimulate new growth to help fill in, thicken, and distribute plant’s weight more evenly. This allows the plant to put more energy into healthier and more desired branches rather than ‘rouge’ branches that shoot off in sporadic directions. 
  • Insects: Although beneficial, some insects are not desirable in proximity of high traffic areas for families.  Reducing and/or thinning plants will help deter insects from building nests unexpectedly (i.e., wasps, hornets, bees, etc.). 
  • Other pests:  The same goes for furry animals as insects: raising branches off the ground or thinning/pruning plants off buildings and structures deters animals from making dens, nests, and hideouts. Many times, these are areas where animals will dig under foundations, causing a host of problems. 
  • Light: All plants need varying amounts of sunlight to make food and stay healthy. Strategic pruning allows light to reach plants either internally, around the perimeter, or both. 
  • Disease: Pruning twice a year allows us to put eyes on the plants to catch early signs of disease that may be starting or has already infected and damaged the plant. We can remove these branches before they become weak and break. Also, along with good air flow and increased sunlight, disease will be reduced.
  • Weeds: This classification of plants creates many problems for landscapes. Some of the most common problems include crowding, spreading, visually detracting, competing for the same resources such as light, water and nutrients. 


Want professional upkeep of your plants, edging, and yard? Visit the Custom Creations Landscape Preservation page to learn more.

Grass Roots Team

Watering Tips

  • Our watering advice is based on plants living in a 72 degree house. Porch life or humidity could have an impact on its watering needs.
  • Always use tepid water for watering your houseplants.
  • Broadleaf plants need less water in fall and winter, but you should never allow the soil to completely dry out.
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