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Pruning when you have sight loss

Pruning may seem like a tricky job if you have sight loss, but you can tackle pruning by following a few simple guidelines.

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

  • Feeling where to prune
    To investigate a shrub which you need to prune, feel upwards from the base. There will be a vigorous stem or stems, side shoots and buds where the leaf joins a stem.
  • You will need to prune the stem or shoot at an angle just above a bud, which will then form a new shoot.  Choose buds that are pointing outwards from the body of the shrub.  
  • Make your first cut and then tie a piece of string at that point. Use the position of the string to check the length of branches/shoots for your next cuts. Alternatively, you can tie short lengths of string onto all the branches you want to cut back before you start.
  • Some visually impaired gardeners find it easier to feel what they are doing if they cut a little material off the tips of the forefingers and thumbs of their gardening gloves - but take extra care when using cutting tools.
  • Put brightly coloured plastic cane toppers or old plastic pots over branches or stems that you have cut for additional safety.
  • Cut and hold secateurs are ideal for gardeners who have sight loss as they grip the cut material and stop it falling to the ground.
  • 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
  • Buy shrubs and trees that are right for the space you that you have in the garden. Check when your plants should be pruned. If you prune at the wrong time for your shrub or fruit tree, you may 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.


Taking care

  • Pruning a shrub
    Be careful when reaching in to a shrub to prune it as the branches and any thorns may scratch you. Wear protective clothing and a good pair of gardening gloves. Some visually impaired gardeners find it easier to feel what they are doing if they cut a little material off the tips of the forefingers and thumbs of the gloves.
  • Put brightly coloured plastic cane toppers or old plastic pots over branches or stems that you have cut for additional safety.
  • 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.
  • 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. 



 Equipment and tools

  • Cut and grip secateurs
    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.
  • Cut and hold secateurs are a good choice as they grip the cut material to save you bending.
  • 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.
  • The Snapper is a long handled pruner you can use with one hand. It has short cut-and-hold blades and is suitable for light pruning.


Cut and hold secateurs  

Cut and hold secateurs

These top quality steel secateurs with anvil blades have plastic handles and a mechanism that holds on to the stem that has been cut off.

Find out more about Cut and hold secateurs