Scared to Prune?

To many of us pruning seems to be some magical process the details of which are known to only a select few. But the rules of pruning are actually pretty basic. Here we will try to keep it as simple as possible.

Why Prune?

  • To remove dead, diseased or damaged branches in order to maintain the health of our plants.
  • To direct growth and make plants more attractive.
  • To remove undesirable growth.
  • To increase flowering or fruiting.
  • To maintain safety by removing dead or broken limbs or branches that threaten to fall.
  • To maintain hedges or topiaries.

Types of Pruning Cuts


  • removal of entire stems or branches back to their points of origin or where they join with other branches.
  • useful for plants like Hydrangea, Forsythia and Kerria.


  • clipping a plant’s outer foliage to create an even surface.
  • use for hedges or topiaries.


  • removing only the tips of new growth (the terminal bud). -stimulates branching.
  • used mostly on annuals and perennials to make them bushy and encourage more flowers.


  • the annual pruning of a shrub or tree close to ground level.
  • results in the production of a quantity of vigorous new shoots each year.
  • plants like hardy fuchsias and shrubby dogwood take well to this pruning practice.


  • removal of part of a stem or branch, not the whole thing as in Thinning.
  • stimulates the growth of lateral buds just below the pruning cut.
  • useful for plants like Lavenders and Heathers, where bushiness and floral display is the goal.

Making Pruning Cuts

  • The placement of a pruning cut is very important
  • Pruning cuts should be made at a 45°angle 6mm(1/4”) above the outward facing bud.
  • If you cut too close to a bud it is likely to die resulting in no new growth.
  • Cuts made too far away from the bud leave a stub that will eventually decay leaving an area that is vulnerable to attack by insects or disease.


West Van Location

2558 Haywood Avenue
Telephone: 604-922-2613

North Van Location

1343 Lynn Valley Road
Telephone: 604-985-1784

Correct Pruning Cuts

Incorrect Pruning Cuts

a. Too close to the bud
b. Too far away from the bud
c. Too steep an angle

Large Pruning Cuts

When removing a large heavy limb avoid ripping the bark by shortening the branch to a stub before cutting it off just outside the branch collar. This is done in 3 steps:

  1. One foot from the branch base make a cut from the underside about 1/3 of the way through.
  2. About an inch further out on the branch cut through the top until the branch rips off.
  3. Make the final cut close to but not flush with the trunk or main branch that the limb is being removed from.


When to Prune

It is always time to prune out dead, damaged or diseased wood but if you need to know when to prune a particular plant, please come in or call our West Vancouver location 604-922-2613 or our North Vancouver location 604-985-1784 and one of our knowledgeable staff will be glad to help.

Pruning Tools

Choose your weapon:



hand held pruning shears used for making small cuts not larger than 8mm (3/4”) in diameter.long handled pruners that are capable of cutting branches up to 2.5cm (1”) in diameter. The long handles provide more leverage and reach.

Loppers  - Pole Pruner

anvil-type pruner on a long pole (sometime telescopic). Useful for removing branches high up in trees. Can include a pruning saw attachment.



Pruning Saw

narrow bladed saw that has one cutting edge. Can deal with wood up to 11/2 in diameter and reach into awkward places

Hedge Shears

scissor-like action for trimming hedges and topiaries.