By Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have a shrub that needs a hard prune? Are you worried about causing damage to the hedge in the process of trying to help it?
Thankfully, there are a few tips you can try to ensure you help the plant without harming it. If this task is on your to-do list, don’t put it off any longer.
Approach your hedge with confidence as you remove the necessary segments and encourage new growth.
Here are the tips you should consider when pruning a hedge significantly without causing damage:
1. Use the Right Tools
When you prune a hedge, it’s vital that you use the right tools. You must use hand shears, loppers, and hand saws.
Use the appropriate tool depending upon what size portion of the hedge you’re pruning. By using the right tools, you ensure you provide clean cuts to the hedge.
If you use the wrong tools throughout the plant, you could create tears which is a way to invite pests and diseases to your hedge.
2. Take Care of Your Tools
The next tip in pruning your hedge is to care for your tools. Don’t try to prune a hedge with a dull tool. Not only does it make the work harder on you, but it can damage your plant.
By using sharp tools, they’re able to easily slice through the branches of the plant. Should you use a dull tool, again, it will cause the plant to tear.
This is problematic as any damaged area on your plant is an open invitation to pests and diseases. Take this into consideration prior to pruning your hedge.
3. Prune at the Right Time
Did you know there’s an ideal time to prune hedges? It’s best to prune hedges during the winter months. This is the time of year when the plant should be dormant.
You shouldn’t prune a hedge once it’s in bloom. Instead, prune after the blooming cycle to ensure all the plant’s energy is going towards new growth instead of blooms.
If you’re pruning a flowering shrub, wait until the plant has gone dormant and before it begins to flower. This way, you won’t accidentally prune away any potential blooms.
Also, if you’re pruning evergreens, be sure to only prune them over winter as they take a long time to regrow. It’s also wise to prune hedges in a triangular shape where they’re narrow at the top and bushy at the bottom. This encourages even growth.
4. Remove the Right Parts of the Hedge
When you prune a hedge, it’s important that you remove the appropriate parts. You should never begin hacking on a plant.
Instead, know what you’re removing and why. The items which should be removed when cutting a hedge back significantly are any areas that are dead or damaged by elements or disease.
The reason being is that these portions of the plant are holding back its growth. By removing them, you encourage new and healthier growth of the plant.
You should also remove areas that cause the plant to be misshapen or are too thick which blocks airflow around the plant.
If there are any limbs which are tangled or broken, they must be trimmed away as well to encourage proper growth.
However, be mindful to never remove more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. This can cause the plant to go into shock which will bring harm to its overall health and could even lead to death.
By ensuring you only remove intentional portions of the plant, you’re taking appropriate steps to help the plant’s health instead of hindering it.
5. Prune Prior to Planting
Have you ever considered pruning a hedge significantly prior to even planting it? In some cases, you should.
If you’re going to plant a hedge and notice that there are large roots in the root system, take note of them. Check to see if these roots are larger in girth than your finger.
Should these roots appear larger than your finger, they must go before you even plant the hedge. The reason being is roots like this can become wrapped around the hedge.
This is a process known as girdling. When this occurs, it stops the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and the top of the plant.
Overtime, it will lead to death of your hedge unless the root is removed and a bridge graft is performed to help nutrients and water still flow while the hedge heals.
If it’s possible to avoid this issue altogether, you should. Be alert to this risk prior to planting your shrub and remove this issue before it starts.
6. Avoid Pruning at the Wrong Times
We’ve already discussed the appropriate times to prune a hedge, but did you know there’s an inappropriate time? Understanding when a hedge is open to pruning is important to avoid damage to the plant.
In most cases, you shouldn’t prune a hedge during the fall. Instead, wait until the plant is dormant and before it has bloomed (if it’s a blooming hedge).
Should you prune a hedge in the fall, you could encourage late-season growth. This weakens and can even damage the plant.
Ensure you’re pruning at the right times in the year to help the plant become healthier and avoid causing damage.
7. Prune for Maintenance
When pruning a hedge and trying to do everything right, you shouldn’t feel as though your hands are tied. There are times aside from dormancy periods where you can prune your hedge.
However, the catch is you shouldn’t do heavy pruning during these times. Ensure you only perform pruning for maintenance during the growth season.
During this time, you can remove any parts of the plant that have recently died or become infested by a disease. This can help stop the disease and treat the plant before things get too far out of hand.
You should also remove any areas of the hedge that have become too thick during the growing season. By avoiding pruning when you see a direct issue, you could leave the plant open to potential disease.
Take this into account when deciding whether your pruning can wait or not. By removing potential trouble spots immediately, you could stop issues before they begin.
8. Prune According to Nature’s Design
One of the major ways people do harm to their shrubs when pruning heavily is work against the grain. Look at your plant.
How was it meant to look in nature? Do you have this visual in your head? Great! Now try to prune in a way to either regain or maintain the hedge’s natural shape.
If you come along and just cut a hedge’s top off with no finesse, you could end up with a leggy hedge. Instead, prune the hedge based upon its natural shape to encourage even, healthy growth.
This might take a little longer to get the hedge to look the way you desire, but you shouldn’t harm it using this method, and you should encourage thicker growth in the long run.
9. Trim a Little at a Time
Our final tip to pruning a hedge heavily without causing damage is to not overdo it. When pruning, try to keep things even and uniform.
As you remove dead, diseased, or mangled branches, don’t leave little nubs of wood sticking out in the bush.
Instead, ensure each branch removed is within a ¼” of the main stem. This will encourage even regrowth.
Remember, to never remove more than 1/3 of the hedge in a single cutting. By ensuring you prune evenly, you should keep the plant happy and healthy.
You now have nine tips to prune a hedge without causing damage. The key to not damaging a hedge is to think before you cut.
Though we frequently get in a hurry and want to start cutting pieces of a plant away, it backfires. By performing clean cuts with a vision for the end product and understanding why you’re removing each piece, you should avoid damaging your hedge.