Pruning is cutting back shoots and branches on a shrub or tree to remove any dead or diseased growth, to shape the plant and limit its size, to remove dead flowers (deadheading) and to cut back herbaceous plants. Pruning encourages the production of buds to make flowers and fruit.
Top tips to make pruning easier
- When choosing secateurs, check they are the right size for your hand and that they have a comfortable grip. It’s also worth checking the size is right for you when the handles are open. Also, make sure that you can release the safety catch easily.
- Use the right tool for the job. Loppers and pruners are generally used for cutting wood that is too thick for secateurs.
- Buy shrubs and trees that are right for the space that you have in the garden and try to choose shrubs that don’t need a lot of pruning. Look at the plant label or ask for advice before you buy. Find out more about easy-care plants in Thrive's plant guide
Check when your plants need pruning. If you prune at the wrong time for your shrub or fruit tree, you can encourage disease and other problems.
- You can buy fruit trees and some soft fruit bushes trained in forms such as cordons and espaliers which are easier to reach and to prune.
- Reaching up to prune can put a strain on your back, neck and arms. Don’t over stretch and do a little at a time.
- The repetitive action needed when using secateurs can strain your hands. Always ‘warm up’ with a few gentle stretches, tackle a bit at a time and take regular breaks.
- Be careful when reaching into a shrub to prune it as the branches and any thorns may scratch you. Wear protective clothing and a good pair of gardening gloves.
Equipment and tools
Cut and hold secateurs grip the cut material to save you bending.
- The Snapper is a long handled pruner, it has short cut-and-hold blades and is suitable for light pruning.
- Longer, lightweight gear action plastic pruners have great cutting power and are useful, but you will need a reasonable level of strength to use them.
- Ratchet action and power lever secateurs require less strength and can ease some of the strain on your hands.
- Long-reach pruners are designed for hard to reach areas. The shorter length models can be used with one hand.
- Keep all pruning tools sharp and well oiled and you'll find that it will take less effort to make a cut.