The Do’s and Don’t of Summer Pruning

Suzanne Oliver
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Break out the blades!

Pruning is usually associated with spring and fall, but it’s also an important habit to cultivate in the summer. The removal of diseased, damaged and dead debris encourages airflow and healthy growth. (Now’s also a great time to shape unruly plants.) Simply knowing which species to focus on and which tools to use can make all the difference.

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Here’s a list of dos and don’t to get you started.

  • Do use the right tool. Save time and effort with a pruner or lopper, sharp, shear-like devices used to cut stems and branches. Pruners or shears require one hand, while larger loppers use both. Look for quality brands such as Homelite and Fiskars. Whether you are left-handed or right-handed, Fiskars are ergonomically designed with a cushioned grip for comfort. Loppers are ideal for trees, climbing vines and large shrubs. For heavy-duty cuts, they provide greater leverage with minimal effort. For small trees and bushes, look for lightweight models from brands like Ryobi and Fiskars. Also consider the type of blades you need. Anvil blades have a single sharp blade that crushes and tears off the stem, making it ideal for blunt cuts of dead branches and dry, hard, old growth. Bypass models have sharp blades that sweep past the lower sharpened jaw for a precise cut that’s ideal for new growth. Ask a Certified Nursery Consultant to help you find the right pruner for your needs or consult our handy pruner buying guide.
  • Don’t neglect your hydrangeas. First determine if your hydrangea blooms on old wood. In other words — does it bloom in early summer and peter out by midsummer? For larger, more plentiful blooms next season, prune as the flowers begin to fade.
  • Do prune for larger, healthier fruit. Dormant pruning invigorates a fruit tree, while summer upkeep allows for better airflow and light penetration. The idea is to thin out a dense canopy, especially in older trees. According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, a tree that isn’t trained properly will have upright branch angles, which result in serious limb breaks under a heavy fruit load.
  • Don’t go clip crazy. For some species, trimming in the summer can actually deter growth. New shoots especially may not have time to mature before cold weather sets in. Be sure to keep a garden journal detailing each plant’s pruning schedule.
  • Don’t wait until a plant is overgrown. Pruning should be routine and part of your garden’s regular maintenance.

(By the way, your plants deserve better than your rusty old pruner. Treat them to a new one here.)

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