A haphazard pruning job can be as unsightly as a bad haircut, except the plant can't wear a hat to hide the damage.
Robert Nuss, professor of ornamental horticulture in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, offers some tips on what not to do when you pick up your pruning shears.
- Never leave short stubs. Twigs should be cut close to the main stem. "Stubs do not heal quickly and make an ideal opening for disease and insects," Nuss says. "Try to get the blade of the tool as close to the main stem as possible."
- Never prune spring-flowering plants before they blossom. "The flower buds are formed the season before, and pruning will remove them before they can open," he says.
- Never cut all shoots or stems to the same height. "It gives the plant a 'crew cut' look and stimulates dense growth on the top of the plant," Nuss explains.
- Never shear hedges so they are narrow at the bottom. The bottom should be several inches wider than the top to allow for fuller growth. "The wider bottom exposes more of the plant to light, and eliminates the twiggy look many hedges have," Nuss says.
- Never leave a stump without a bud at the end to continue growth. "Slant the cut slightly so a tiny portion of the twig remains above the bud," Nuss says.
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