Plants are one of nature's most amazing gifts. Not only do they provide us with oxygen, but they also beautify our environment. However, like any living thing, plants need proper care and attention to thrive. One of the basic practices of plant care is pruning. Pruning is the cutting off of certain parts of a plant, such as branches or stems, to promote growth, increase production, and improve the overall health of the plant.
In this article, we'll discuss how to prune your plants for optimal growth.
Benefits of Pruning
- Promotes plant growth - Pruning helps remove damaged or dead branches, allowing the plant's energy to be focused on healthy parts, thus promoting growth.
- Improves plant health - By removing diseased or damaged branches, pruning helps prevent the spread of disease and pests, thus improving the overall health of the plant.
- Increases fruit production - Pruning removes old and unhelpful branches, allowing new growth for branches to produce better fruits.
- Enhances the appearance of the plant - Pruning helps to shape the plant and make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Best Practices For Pruning
Here are some tips to keep in mind regarding the best practices for pruning:
Determine the Right Time to Prune
The timing of pruning varies depending on the type of plant. In general, it is best to prune during dormancy (when the plant is not actively growing). Domancy takes place before the start of the growing season, or after the flowering season. Most shrubs are best pruned in early spring or late fall to promote new growth, and fruit trees are best pruned during the winter dormancy period.
Choosing the Right Tools
For different-sized plants, you need to use tools of the corresponding size. Some of the basic tools you need include:
- Pruning shears: for cutting small branches and stems.
- Pliers: for cutting medium sized branches.
- Hand saw: for cutting large branches.
Make sure your tools are sharp, clean, and appropriate for the size of the plant. This will reduce cut damage and lower the risk of disease.
Decide On the Type of Pruning
The type of pruning depends on the type of plant and its needs, the following are some common types.
- Crown thinning - refers to the selective removal of tiny branches from the canopy to reduce the density of the canopy and allow more sunlight and air to penetrate the plant. The number of branches to be pruned at a time should not exceed 1/4 of the canopy.
- Crown reduction - This refers to reducing the height or spread of the plant by cutting back the top or sides of the canopy and will reduce the chance of disease infection such as brown root disease.
- Deflowering - Removing faded spent flowers or seed heads to avoid excessive nutrient depletion. This will promote further flowering.
- Rejuvenation pruning - pruning plant branches to their base to promote new growth and improve the overall health of the plant.
Before you start pruning, make sure you understand the plant's anatomy. The following are the parts of the plant that you should focus on.
- Branch collar - This is the raised part at the base of the branch where it meets the trunk or main stem. The secretions in the collar help the plant to heal. Therefore, it should not be cut into during pruning to prevent the spread of rot.
- The bark ridge of the branch - the area where the branch joins the bark. It also helps the plant heal and this part should be avoided during pruning.
- Terminal buds - Terminal buds are located at the end of branches and stems and are responsible for apical dominance. Preferential growth of terminal buds inhibits the growth of lateral buds and branches, and pruning directly above the buds helps to promote new growth.
It is important to note that pruning should always be done by cutting at a 45° angle to avoid tearing the plant's tissues and to ensure a clean cut to prevent the spread of disease.
After pruning, make sure to clean up any debris around the plant to reduce the spread of plant diseases and pests. Generally speaking, plants that have just been pruned are still in a fragile stage and continuous over-watering can instead damage the growth and development of the plants. You can set multiple watering run times by setting a sprinkler timer and watering in small amounts over time. This will allow enough time for the plant to absorb water and avoid moisture buildup in the roots. Proper fertilization and watering will give the plant extra nutrients and moisture to promote healing.
Do Not Over-Prune
Over-pruning can affect plant growth and flowering, damage the plant's structure and health status, make the plant less resistant to diseases and pests, and eventually lead to a decrease in plant growth quality or yield. Therefore, avoid cutting off more than 1/3 of the plant growth in one season.
Pruning is a valuable technique for maintaining plant health and productivity. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can prune your plants with confidence and enjoy the many benefits that come with this important gardening technique. Happy pruning!