Everything You Need to Know About Trimming and Pruning Trees and Hedges

September 8, 2021

One of the best things to wake up to in the morning is a clean, green, and healthy lawn. Just imagine yourself standing on the porch, coffee cup in hand, sipping that warm drink while looking at your lawn. Imagine all those green hedges and healthy trees. Just seeing a well-kept lawn can add to a beautiful start to your day. With that said, taking care of our lawns isn’t as simple as watering them and putting fertilizer.

If you want to have a lawn that’s pleasing for everyone, you have to know a few more things than just watering and fertilizer. One of the most critical activities to achieve a healthy and thriving lawn is pruning and trimming. So what is pruning and trimming? How does it help your shrubs and trees? 

First off, it’s important to point out that pruning and trimming are two separate things. In addition, pruning and trimming are done at separate times in a year. Although both use slightly different tools, pruning and trimming all ultimately lead to a healthier plant. In this article, we’ll discuss both pruning and trimming, why it’s essential, and when you should do it.


Pruning is done to help trees and shrubs grow healthy. Although you can still prune trees for aesthetic purposes, this process focuses more on plant health and growth. Pruning is done by using:

  • Pruning Shears – Pruning shears are hand-held tools commonly used to cut shrubs, flowers, vines, and other small growths on plants and trees. 
  • Loppers – These tools are used to prune big, thicker branches. Loppers can come in three styles depending on their use: anvil, ratchet, and bypass.
  • Pruning Saw – Pruning saws are used to prune even bigger, much thicker tree branches. They can cut through branches that are 1 ½ to 5 inches thick.
  • Hedge Shears – Ideal for pruning small shrubs.
  • Pole Pruner – These are used for branches that are hard to reach.

Using the tools mentioned above, you can prune trees by cutting off dead or unhealthy branches. If you want professional work done on your trees, you can contact the guys from tree surgeons richmond. These people know best when it comes to pruning, trimming, and taking care of your trees so they’ll look great.

By cutting off the dead branches, a tree can continue to grow properly. In fruit-bearing trees, pruning helps by cutting off dormant buds and instead allows the tree to create more productive, healthy buds.

Types of Pruning Cuts

You should know that pruning isn’t simply shaving off random leaves and branches to get an attractive plant. There are three types of pruning that you should know about:

Heading – These cuts primarily remove the top-most parts of a shoot. By removing these small branches, you can help the tree stimulate growth. In addition, these cuts result in a more thick and compact growth for the branches. Shrubs such as crape myrtle and burford holly often tolerate headings. 

Thinning – Rather than removing small growths, thinning involves removing whole shoots from the plant. Since there are tips that aren’t completely removed, new growth continues and is actually improved with this type of cut. Thinning is great if you want to stop lateral buds from growing. 

Drop-crotching – This cut is used for larger trees or shrubs with unusually thick branches. Drop-crotching removes the entire branches of the tree. The correct way of doing drop-crotching cuts is by doing three angled cuts. Using these three cuts avoids unnecessary wounding and peeling of the bark from the tree.

Tips for Pruning Hedges

  • Hand pruning and shearing go hand in hand. Although using quality shears can make for an easier job, you should use your hands after every few cuts. With every few feet, you can reach inside your hedges to cut off a branch. By doing so, you’re allowing more light and air to circulate all over your plant. Remember, sunlight, and other essentials also need to reach the insides of your hedges for it to be healthy.
  • Certain hedges are best pruned during winter. Make sure you know what hedges you have. Pruning during the winter allows the plant to focus all its energy on growing the following season.
  • For older, overgrown hedges, it’s good to apply the three-year rule. The three-year rule is: remove ⅓ of the thickest parts of the plant in the first year. By doing so, you stimulate the plant for new growth. The next year, trim another ⅓ and repeat the year after. This time period is enough for your plants to recuperate, leaving you with a healthier, albeit shorter hedge.
  • For those just starting, decide how high and wide your hedges are going to be. It’s also best that you know the total size of your area before planting. Also, have enough space for your hedges to grow appropriately. 
  • Keep your hedges narrower on the top. With a narrow top, you aren’t blocking sunlight from reaching the lower branches.
  • Hedges can only do so much. If you want better privacy from your plants, trees are a better option. Forcing hedges to cover an unrealistic part of your house will only end up in disappointment.


Trimming, on the other hand, focuses on maintenance care and appearance. Trimming is also used to cut overgrowth when it gets near structures or electric poles. Most tools you can use for pruning can also be good options for trimming. However, since some trimming jobs need extra safety, some tools can be modified. Pole pruners, for example, have modifications that make them safer to use when near electric poles.

Tips for Trimming Trees

  • Trimming is a must. If you want a tree to look good, giving it a proper trim helps.
  • Aside from dead and unhealthy branches, v-shaped branches that have narrow angles are perfect for trimming.
  • Don’t leave a stub when trimming. 
  • Make sure you’re trimming your own tree in your own area. Sometimes, it’s easy to get carried away with trimming and even taking care of your trees. If you manage to damage a tree that doesn’t belong to you, you’ll be responsible for the damages.
  • Do not wait for your tree to be hazardous. Most of the time, overgrown trees can become a safety hazard for everyone living nearby. Before anything bad happens, be the responsible neighbor and trim your trees. You can be held liable in certain cases if it was found out that you aren’t keeping your tree in a safe condition.

Tree Felling

When a tree does become too hazardous for everyone, you can opt to have it removed. Rather than being responsible for any mishaps that happen, it’s best to get the tree out. It’s best to hire professionals who are nearby. For example, if you’re living somewhere in Farringdon, Thorney Close, or Sunderland, you can easily contact the best sunderland tree removal services fit for your needs.

Tree felling, however, isn’t exclusively for removing hazardous trees. Sometimes, the complete removal of a tree is the best solution for overcrowding. For example, trees that have sustained significant damage from vandalization, storm damage, or have died due to decay should also be removed from the property.

Types of Pruning and Trimming

There are seven main types of pruning and trimming. All of these processes lead to a specific outcome:

Cleaning – This process is what most of us are familiar with. Cleaning removes the dead or diseased branches of a tree or shrub. Weakened parts such as a dormant bud or a low-vigor branch may also be cut off.

Thinning – Thinning primarily focuses on removing branches to increase the penetration of both light and air throughout the tree. Thinning prompts growth, reduces weight, and helps the tree return to a more natural shape.

Canopy Raising – The aim of canopy raising is to raise the foliage to a higher position on the tree. With this process, the bottom branches are removed, allowing the tree to grow or “raise” its canopy. 

Crown Reduction – When trees in urban or suburban areas get a bit overgrown, their branches and leaves may stretch out to specific structures or even power lines. If allowed to grow, these can spell disaster for people living nearby. Crown reduction aims to cut and clear these branches away. Crown reduction can also be done on trees that are near houses and roofs.

Restoration – Trees are some of the casualties that emerge after a storm comes. If restoration isn’t done on them, these trees could lose their natural appearance and can pose a danger to anyone or anything nearby. Restoration involves cutting bigger branches into smaller ones to promote growth. As a result, trees that are restored can look significantly smaller than their usual size.

Vista Pruning – Vista pruning mainly involves cutting specific parts of a tree so it’ll improve a view. This type of pruning is excellent with areas overlooking mountains or areas with accessible and attractive views.

Espalier Pruning – This type of pruning is typically applied to courtyards where trees are integral for the overall look of the yard. These trees are largely grown near the walls. Since it’s near a structure, adequate pruning is done on the tree to make it grow better. The results of proper espalier pruning always result in a healthy and attractive tree.

When Is the Best Time for Pruning and Trimming?

The best time for pruning and trimming your plants relies on what plants you have. Here are some common types of shrubs and trees and their appropriate cutting period.

  • Deciduous Shrubs

When pruning these types of shrubs, you should take into account the plant’s current health, blooming time, and growing habits. Overgrown shrubs that don’t receive a lot of care often require a lot of pruning. Early spring or late winter is the perfect time to prune deciduous shrubs.

For well-maintained flowering shrubs, the best time to prune them would be right after they are flowering. Pruning them right after flowering provides the plant adequate time to grow back their flowers the following season.

For non-flowering deciduous shrubs, the best time to prune them would be around late winter. Do not prune them during summer as they won’t be grown or prepared enough for upcoming cold weather. Deciduous shrubs that go through this phase often suffer frost injury in the winter season.

  • Deciduous Trees

Deciduous trees are more robust than deciduous shrubs and are best pruned through February and March. During these months, these types of trees have less foliage. With less foliage, you can easily choose which branches of the trees you can remove. 

  • Evergreen Shrubs

For evergreen shrubs, the best time to prune them would be during late March or early April. Then, you could do a bit of light pruning for shrubs such as juniper and yew, mid-summer. 

However, when you do excessive pruning during these periods, newly pruned evergreen plants don’t do well in the upcoming winter. Sometimes, taking care of evergreen shrubs can be tricky. If you’re having a hard time with shrubs and hedges, then you can get the best services for tree service cambridge.

  • Evergreen Trees

Pine, spruce, and fir trees are some of the hardiest wood out there. If you start noticing your trees having dead branches, you can safely remove them at any time. However, if you want to do a bit of canopy raising for evergreen trees, late winter would be the best time to cut down the lower branches.

Both spruce and fir trees possess lateral buds. These buds are where new growth occurs. For a denser look on your spruce and fir trees, you can just cut the shoots above the lateral bud during the onset of spring.

For pine trees, however, newer growth comes from terminal buds. So, to accelerate your tree’s growth, you can prune half of the terminal buds during spring. You can start pruning these buds or “candles” when they reach at least 2 to 3 inches. 

  • Fruit-bearing Trees

The best time to prune fruit trees entirely depends on what fruits you have, the season, and your location.

Plant’s Healing Response to Trimming and Pruning

To better understand how plants react to such cuts, it’s good to know some of the parts involved. The Cambium is a layer of tissue in plants and trees that’s still growing. It’s full of undifferentiated cells that make plants and trees’ trunks, branches, and roots grow thicker. The cambium is located beneath the outer and inner bark of the tree.

When cutting a branch, two parts of the cambium begin healing. These parts are the bark ridge and collar tissue. The bark ridge is where the area in a tree where the branch and the trunk meet. The collar tissue, which is located underneath a branch, is easily distinguishable because of small, noticeable folds around it.

If you want to make the tree or shrub heal faster, you should prune closer to the main branch while avoiding any damage to the bark ridge and collar tissue. Do not be tempted to leave a stub. Contrary to popular belief, stubs will slow the healing process of the tree. These stubs can also invite decay which can worsen the tree’s condition.


Although water, sunlight, space, temperature, nutrients, and air are basic needs for a plant to thrive, we shouldn’t overlook pruning and trimming. Although it might sound drastic for some, cutting off branches on a plant is necessary for a healthier and more fruitful outcome. In fact, a lot of fruit trees require pruning for better yields. 

Trimming is also an essential process in case a tree or shrub becomes a hazard. There are many cases where trees that are too close to electric poles sway during strong winds, causing blackouts. For you to have a healthy hedge or tree, you should include proper trimming and pruning in your plant care regimen. Once you’ve taken care of your plants, all you need is time and patience for that lawn to impress you and your neighbors.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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