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Of all the gardening practices, pruning is probably the most misunderstood and neglected. While the written word of even projected images are no substitute for hands-on training and experience, the main objectives of pruning can be accomplished with an understanding of a few basic fundamentals.


The Theory of Apical Dominance is the primary concept of plant growth to consider when pruning. It has been observed that plant energies and growth are stimulated by auxins or growth hormones produced in the buds. buds located at the tips of the canopy produce much more of these hormones and will grow more vigorously than buds orientated lower ont he stem or canopy. Pruning stimulates growth by diverting nutrition & energies to a new terminal leader and remaining buds. A classic example is the resulting growth from lateral buds after pruning or pinching-out the tip or leader of a young succulent plant.

  • Why Prune
  • When To Prune
  • Where To Start Pruning
  • Gospel According To Grandma Joy

The stock answer is to maintain the health and vigor of the plant. This is done by removing dead, diseased, or injured wood. We also prune to increase the quality and yield of fruit by removing unwanted growth from the canopy. Some plants require considerable pruning while others may need little to none.


While light pruning can be done almost anytime of the year, most of the work and heavier cuts are made in the winter months while the plant is dormant. This causes less stress to the plant and is easier done with a defoliated canopy.

Pruning stimulates growth by redirecting nutrition and plant energies to the remaining buds. This new succulent growth is very susceptible to our September frosts and for this reason summer pruning must be finished by the end of July. Try to have your pruning done by the time buds break in the Spring.

Bleeders: Some trees such as Birch & Maples, are called Bleeders in that they weep large quantities of sap through pruning wounds even while dormant in the winter months. These plants should be pruned later in the season, after they have leafed out. Pruning paints will not seal or stop a bleeder from dripping.

There are several steps to follow and situations to consider when pruning. These techniques will comprise the major portion of your pruning, allowing detail work for personal preference or imagination.

  1. Remove dead and diseased wood. This can be done anytime of the year. This helps prevent rot & decay, eliminates habitat for insects.

  2. Elevate lower branches. This allows easy access for mowing and cultivation.

  3. Remove rubbing, crossing branches. This wood will eventually damage tissue and cause rot and decay.

  4. Remove suckers and growth directed toward the center of the canopy. This will allow air and sunlight to penetrate the canopy. This promotes healthy growth and fruit development with fewer fungal problems.

  5. Remove weak or sharp branch crotches. A strong branch crotch has an angle of 45 to 90 degrees. This will support a heavy load of foliage and fruit. Narrower angels will tend to form cavities, soon followed by decay and more serious winter injury.

After completing these steps, you may want to thin some of the branches growing on top of each other and competing for light. Maybe the canopy is heavy on one side and requires some heading cuts to balance out leggy growth. Avoid making cuts that produce deadwood sucker growth. This occurs often enough in nature without stimulating it with poor pruning cuts.

Cut to something. Don't leave a stub. Using the theory of apical dominance, prune to a bud or lateral branch facing or orientated toward the outside of the tree canopy, manipulating growth in the direction.


Removal Of Large Branches: To avoid the ripping and tearing associated with sawing off heavier branches, make 3 cuts. The 1st is an undercut 6" out of the main stem at least 1/3rd the rough the branch. The 2nd is made directly above the 1st and will fell the branch. The 3rd cut removes the stub with no injury to the trunk.

1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

2. Timing is everything

3. Never quit a winner

4. Don't take the weather personal

5. There's a pony under every pile of poop, hush now & shovel

Canyonview Nursery / 335 Quast Lane / Corvallis, MT 59828 / (406) 961-4648


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