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Key Pruning Terms to Help You Shape Up Your Garden

Pruning improves the appearance of practically any landscape tree or shrub, however, poor pruning can damage or substantially limit its landscaping potential.

It's critical to prune your favorite shrub or tree appropriately when the time comes. Deciduous trees should be pruned in the winter, while evergreen trees should be pruned after flowering to ensure a healthy, appealing plant.

Pruning, like any other ability, demands a thorough understanding of what you're doing in order to succeed. 

The conventional belief that anyone with a chainsaw or pruning saw can work as a landscape pruner is incorrect. Each year, poor trimming kills or destroys more trees than pests. 

Pruning, which has multiple definitions, is the process of removing plant portions in order to improve the plant's health, landscape effect, or value.

Pruning is beneficial in numerous ways including

Promoting plant health by clearing out dead and decaying branches and stubs, making a place for new growth, and preventing harm to your property and passers-by.

Maintaining plants and landscapes by promoting the production of healthy fruits and flowers. Hedge aesthetics are developed through regular trimming, which keeps evergreens proportional and dense.

Protecting family and property by decreasing the chance of broken branches causing storm damage to structures. 

Here are a few of the most commonly used and important pruning phrases, so you can safely proceed with your plant's pruning needs.


It is the process of removing dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, and low-vigor branches from a tree's crown (the upper part of the tree made up of branches, stems, and leaves — also known as the "canopy").

Any "stubs," or the dead base of a branch that hasn't been pruned back to the trunk, must also be removed.


To increase airflow and lower the weight of the tree, chosen internal branches are removed. When this form of pruning is done, the tree's overall shape and size stay the same.

The consequence of thinning should be a uniform distribution of branches along with each limb, rather than clustering at the ends. Remove some of the branches from the canopy's border, not the interior.

It's important to avoid the lion tailing effect, which is generated by cutting an excessive amount of internal laterals and foliage.

Sunburned bark tissue, water sprouts, reduced branch taper, weakening branch structure, and breaking may happen as foliar weight is displaced to the ends of the branches.


Removing lower branches back to the trunk to elevate the crown of a tree or shrub. Crown raising is often done to provide clearance for pedestrians, cars, or anything else that might be under the tree.

Crown raising causes minimum tree damage if the following conditions are met:

Removed limbs are not too large (recommended cut diameter is less than two to four inches)

Only a few branches are removed at a time, and 

Several branches are not removed from the same location.


It is used to lower the size of a tree, usually to make room for utility lines. 

Pruning back the leaders and branch terminals to lateral branches large enough to assume the terminal functions is the greatest way to reduce a tree's height or spread (at least one-third the diameter of the cut stem). 

Reduction, as opposed to topping, aids in the preservation of the tree's form and structural integrity.

Trees that need their height decreased can have their crowns reduced by a specialist. Preventing the problem from happening by considering the mature height of trees before planting is the best solution. 

The good news is that if your tree has been topped, an arborist can recover it through a process called ‘crown restoration’. 


This is the process of removing the top half of a tree to improve the view or prevent the tree from growing towards power wires. 

For a variety of reasons, this form of trimming should never be done: It exposes the tree's top to sunburn and insect infestations, while the new branches that come back have a weak connection to the tree and are more likely to break (and are hazardous). 

In an attempt to replace the lost foliage, topping causes the tree to grow faster, creating a vicious cycle.

Heading Back

Reducing outward growth by pruning back branches up to half their length. Shrubs are pruned in this way to minimize their size while maintaining their original shape. 

Long, overhanging branches of trees are also trimmed back to minimize weight at the ends and keep them from colliding with buildings or other structures.

Root Prune

When roots cause difficulties with foundations, sidewalks, or walls due to cracks or elevating, they are clipped, and a root barrier is sometimes installed.

This work should be done by a trained arborist because removing too many roots will destroy your tree.

Root damage from excavation and improper root pruning can do a lot of damage to a tree, affecting its health and/or structural stability. Prior to cutting any roots, a tree risk assessment should be undertaken, and other procedures, such as digging under the roots, should be examined.

Following root trimming, tree health and soil moisture should be evaluated on a regular basis. Root pruning should not be done just before or during a drought unless the tree will be irrigated adequately. 

If there isn't enough rain, irrigation should be applied before and after root trimming.


Hedge trimmers are used to remove a percentage of the outer growth from shrubs during this sort of pruning. It's frequently used to make formal hedges and topiary shapes. 

Shrubs and bushes are commonly used in landscapes due to their ability to be sheared into appealing shapes. 

Some tiny tree species, particularly evergreen kinds, can be trained and sheared into a habit that makes them behave more like shrubs.

Shearing, like trimming and pruning, can be overdone. Shearing is the process of regularly removing the plant's outermost growth. 

It is necessary to trim and prune specimens that are frequently shorn on a regular basis in order to keep them healthy.

Structural Pruning

This style of pruning is frequently done on young trees, and it concentrates on building a strong form by picking branches that will give the tree an attractive shape as well as the ability to endure windy conditions. 

Branches that grow in the incorrect direction or have a weak connection to the trunk are pruned away.