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Posted at: Jan 7, 2017, 12:48 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2017, 12:48 AM (IST)GREEN HOUSE

Pruning glory

Pruning glory

Amarjeet Singh Baath

Trees and shrubs flourish unattended quite well in and around the garden, but a gardener's personal and customised care will definitely shape them well and contribute towards their health and beautification. The main principal is to reduce the apical dominance to form lateral branches and strike a balance between shoot and root growth. Pruning may be well understood akin to grooming in humans. Pruning is a technique and is a continuous process, however a few pruning operations are carried out only at a specific point of time in a year to bring the plant in its best form. 


Young trees do need selective pruning for structural soundness. Training a tree from a whip (a young 2-3 years old slender unbranched shoot) stage will develop a single leader with strong and evenly spaced branches. At the first point, cut the whip to stimulate branching. Subsequently, select strong branches and remove weak, cut those forming weak crotches, double leaders, branches that rub against each other or those who are too close. The objective should be clear, is tree or shrub grown for shade, flowering or fencing etc e.g. a tree may be pruned at 6-8 feet high while a shrub it may be pruned close to base.  


Pruning in a grown stage is done for following reasons.

HEALTH: Improving or maintaining good health and making them sturdier.

  • Thinning of the crown for better air circulation, sunlight and new growth. Remove dead wood or dying branches injured by disease or severe insect infestation.
  • Eliminate rubbing branches that can cause bark wound and invite diseases.
  • Increase the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.
  • Preparing nursery specimens. 
SAFETY: Remove the broken, damaged branches by storms or mechanical damages. 

n As the plant grows, low growing limbs can be discarded for appearance, improve air circulation and easy gardeners' movements.   

AESTHETICS: Shaping plant in good form by controlling or directing growth.

  • To maintain the appearance without giving unnatural form.
  • Reduce the height of the tree for landscape design.


In this region the period between December and January when deciduous trees become dormant and even evergreen trees tends to go into dormancy is the right time to carry out pruning. This is because during the dormant phase the stress and sap lost is minimum on the plant. The extreme cold weather also reduces the chances of fungal infection and insect infestation. However, removal of dead wood, broken branches, and disease-affected parts and small obstruction causing branches can be done at any  time during the year. 


For deciduous trees late winters or early spring (Feb -March) before they began to leaf out, is the best time for pruning. Pruning when the leaves are already off will give you a better idea of how the tree will be shaped.


The thumb rule is to prune as little as possible. Pruning leads to stress on a tree and increases its vulnerability to diseases and insects. On no account, should one prune more than 25 per cent of the crown and one must ensure that living branches compose at least 2/3 of the height of the tree. 

  • Prune young branches rather than the mature ones.
  • Retain branches with strong U shaped / wide angles and trim weak branches with weak V shaped / narrow angles. 
  • Ratio of crown-to-tree should be two thirds. 


Pruning needs an expert hand rather than a novice effort. Using the right tool and the place and not ignoring personal safety is important. It may be done by one or more people depending on the extent of operation.    

Tree branches grow from stems at nodes and pruning always takes place on the branch side of a stem-branch node. Branches and stems are separated by a lip of tissue called a stem collar which grows out from the stem at the base of the branch. All pruning cuts should be made on the branch side of this stem collar. This protects the stem and the other branches that might be growing from it. It also allows the tree to heal more effectively after the prune. 

  • Clip off suckers  grown around the base
  • For clearance gradually over the years keep on removing the lower branches, but ensure branch collar remains. 
  • If a tree has two competing shoots, remove one. 
They might split due to weak crotch.


There are many reasons for the branches to die e.g inadequate sunlight, disease, pest attack and root system damage. This generates dead wood, which hangs on the plant adding unwanted weight and adding ugliness. The dead branches fall off naturally in a slow and gradual process, but for safety and to maintain the aesthetical value of the tree these can be cut immediately. Accordingly, damaged and fallen branches, disease and pest- infected parts should be removed throughout the year. 


  • Trees pruned during early winters are susceptible to winter injury
  • While removing a dead stub always cut outside the callus to prevent live wood to possible infection.
  • Follow tree cut sequence to cut a large branch instead of single cut.
  • An open structure plant is less prone to fungal attack. 
  • Avoid bruising the bark or splitting the wood, give a clear cut. 
  • Use quality tools.


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