Pruning can be described as both an art and a science according to the University of Illinois Extension experts. The art of pruning can be seen when a tree or shrub maintains its natural form, known as “habit”, once the job is completed. The science is in understanding the reasons for pruning and how to properly accomplish the desired results for the plant.
The results of proper pruning include achieving good form or structure, resulting in a stronger plant. Maintaining the plants health is a pruning goal achieved by removing diseased or insect infested branches. Proactive removal of branches to increase air flow and light into the center of the plant can reduce the chance of foliar diseases taking hold. The interior leaves will dry more quickly, denying fungal diseases the wet environment they need in order to thrive.
Pruning with safety in mind can start with young trees, and is achieved when a strong branching structure is established early on. In more mature trees, pruning for safety includes removing damaged branches or perhaps providing better site lines for drivers by removing a vision obstructing limb.
When appropriately done pruning can improve flowering and fruit production on shrubs that have shown a decrease in both over time. Determining if your shrub flowers on new stems which sprouted in the current growing season or on stems which grew last year will provide you with a starting point needed to select a pruning method.
Homeowners can discover how to incorporate the art and science of good pruning practices in their landscape by turning to University of Illinois Extension Horticulture website. The site, listed below, features many articles on pruning all landscape plants and the appropriate timing to do it along with illustrations to guide you. Call our Master Gardener Helpline, also listed below, to get individual help on pruning or any landscape question. Finally, an excellent, “how-to” paperback published by the University is “Pruning and Care of Trees and Shrubs.” It features pruning and identifying some evergreens, in addition to pruning small and large deciduous trees, shrubs, hedges, vines, roses, hydrangeas and more. Order online at https://pubsplus.illinois.edu/U5040.html or by calling 1-800/345-6087. The price is $12 plus $4.50 shipping.
Email your home garden and lawn questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the Master Gardener Helpline at 630-955-1123. Visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/.
Julie Moore has been a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County for 10 years and has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois.