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Pruning Trees and Shrubs

There are several useful pruning references on the reference page in this section. They cover ornamental trees, fruit trees and deciduous and evergreen shrubs. The pruning fact sheet below is the single most useful reference for homeowners.

HLA-6409: Pruning Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

This reference points out the methods used to prune both trees and shrubs, and also discussed the best times. It also debunks a number of myths about pruning which are reproduced below.


Myths About Pruning

There are a number of myths and misconceptions about pruning that should be laid to rest.

Pruning is difficult. Pruning is straightforward if one knows a little about how the plant grows and what it should look like when the process is complete.

Plants will die if pruned at the wrong time of year. Plants may be injured on occasion, but seldom, if ever, are they killed by poorly timed pruning.

All pruning must be done during the winter. Actually, many plants are best pruned during the growing season.

Topping shade trees will keep the trees from causing damage to the home. Shoots that grow after topping are weaker than the original limbs. They will be more likely to split off and cause damage unless they are removed every few years. Also, wood rots are more likely to be a problem in topped trees, resulting in poorer tree health and greater likelihood of limb breakage.

Removing a tree is a crime against nature. If a plant is in the wrong place, from a functional or aesthetic viewpoint, it is by definition a weed and can be removed. This is especially true when a tree must be mutilated to eliminate the problem it is causing.

Most trees need pruning. Actually, mature trees seldom do. Young trees usually benefit because pruning helps to establish the basic branch structure.

Hedge shears are all you need to prune shrubs. Hedge shears are intended to prune hedges only. Using them on shrubs not intended as hedge plants destroys the natural grade and beauty of the plants.

Anyone with a pickup truck and a chain saw is a qualified pruner. Oklahoma has no licensure for tree pruners; thus some individuals doing pruning work may not be knowledgeable or skilled in proper techniques. Never hire someone who stops and tells you that your plants need pruning and that he or she will do it right away. Obtain refer­ences and see their work first!

All cut surfaces must be treated with pruning paint. While long recommended, research-based evidence largely supports the discontinuance of pruning paint. Pruning paint may, in fact, slow down the recovery process.