Pruning is cutting back shoots and branches on a shrub or tree to remove any dead or diseased growth, to shape the plant and to limit its size. Pruning encourages the production of buds to make flowers and fruit.
Top tips to make pruning easier
Secateurs are used for general pruning and for larger stems you use a large pruner with either bypass or anvil blades. Some gardeners with weak grip prefer to use small loppers as they are operated with two hands.
- It makes sense to choose shrubs and trees that don’t need pruning or those 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
You can buy fruit trees and some soft fruit bushes in semi-trained in forms such as espalier or cordons that are easier to reach and to prune.
- 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. Make sure that you can release the safety catch easily. Finger loop pruners might be easier to grip and easier to hold on to.
Taking care when pruning
- The repetitive action needed when using any pruning tools can strain your hand. Always 'warm up' with a few gentle stretches, tackle a bit at a time and take regular breaks.
- Don’t try to cut material that is too thick for your secateurs. Good quality bypass or anvil secateurs will cut stems up to 20mm thick.
- Reaching up to prune can put a strain on your legs, back, neck and arms. Don’t over stretch and do a little at a time.
- Be careful when reaching into a shrub to prune it as the branches or thorns may scratch you. Wear protective clothing and good gardening gloves.
Equipment and tools
Ratchet action and power lever secateurs require less strength and can ease some of the strain on your hands.
- Cut and hold secateurs grip the cut material which saves you bending to pick up the cuttings.
- If you garden sitting down, longer, lightweight gear action plastic pruners have good cutting power but you will need a reasonable level of strength to use them.
Long-reach pruners are designed for hard to reach areas. The shorter length models can be used with one hand.
- The Snapper is a long handled pruner you can use easily. It has short cut-and-hold blades and is suitable for light pruning.
- Keep all pruning tools sharp and well oiled and you’ll find that it will take less effort to make a cut.