‘Common’ pruning mistakes which could ‘permanently damage’ a plant

Gardeners' World: Monty Don advises on pruning lavender

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Pruning involves the selective removal of branches or stems, with the goal to improve the plants or shrubs structure. It can also help to deter pests and animal infestations and promotes the natural shape and healthy growth. However, if gardeners prune plants in the wrong way, or cut too much away, the plant could suffer.

Pruning can be done throughout the year, depending on what plants and trees are in the garden. The best time to prune tends to be after flowering, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

Gardening experts at Sutton Manor Nursery explained: “With all the overgrown shrubs from the previous months, it is understandable that you are eager to start getting your shrubs into shape. However, you must not overdo it. If done too aggressively, it can permanently damage a plant and stunt its growth and make it susceptible to diseases.”

Pruning can benefit trees, shrubs and plants by encouraging growth. However, it is important gardeners do this job when the plant is in a dormant state, which will vary depending on the plant chosen.

Pruning several plants in the garden when it is in active growing can potentially “starve” them. The experts added: “Pruning is simply cutting leaves and leaves are what a plant needs to make food. Therefore, over-pruning your plant means it cannot make food.”

To ensure you are pruning correctly, make sure you cut at an angle when removing selected branches or stems. This is so that water can’t collect and promote disease on the branches or twigs.

Many gardeners opt to introduce winter-flowering shrubs into their garden for a pop of colour during the gloomier months of the year. There are various shrubs which look great in the colder months including winter honeysuckle, pansies and snowdrops.

Pruning is absolutely necessary to encourage healthier growth and to rejuvenate shrubs and plants, and according to one expert, not pruning at all could be harmful.

Eleni Veroutsos, gardening expert at BackyardBoss, explained: “One of the most common mistakes people make is not pruning their plants at all. While it may seem like extra work, pruning is essential to making sure your plants are healthy and grow properly.”

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However, when pruning, it is important not to over-prune as this could kill your plants off. Eleni added: “Similar to not pruning at all, over-pruning can be bad as well. One of the biggest dangers of over-pruning is that it can encourage excessive growth.

“This may not seem like a bad thing at first, but it can quickly get out of control.” It is also quite easy to detect if you have over-pruned a plant. Signs include a plant or shrub looking stressed or damaged as well as looking at the amount of new growth.

If you see lots of new shoots and leaves, then it is likely you have pruned too much, according to the expert.

The pro added: “If you think you might be over-pruning, the best thing to do is to stop pruning for a while and see how the plant responds. 

“If it starts to recover, then you were probably doing too much. If not, you might be making another common gardening mistake.”

Leading hedging and plant supplier, Hedges Direct, has shared how gardeners can prune their winter-flowering shrubs. The experts said: “If we first consider the growth cycle of winter-flowering shrubs, it helps us to understand why pruning them at the correct time is so important.

“Winter-flowering shrubs and hedges usually display attractive flowers that last right through the colder months and then to sprout new green growth as spring arrives, with flower buds beginning to form that will bloom the following winter.

“As a general rule of thumb, winter-flowering shrubs should be pruned after flowering but before they begin to bud (normally in late winter), as the spring growth that immediately follows will help wounds to heal quickly.”

Berberis Thunbergii, also known as Japanese Barberry, are popular amongst gardeners because they are slow growing and provide gorgeous different colours.

Available in pots all year round, the gardening experts said those who have this shrub need to prune it immediately before winter buds begin to form.

They said: “These flower buds begin forming in early spring in order to mature and build up a hardened layer to protect them from the harsh winter weather when they emerge.

“Because of this process, these shrubs need to be pruned immediately after flowering before next winter’s buds begin to form. Waiting until summer or autumn to prune can cause the loss of the forming flower buds, resulting in no winter flowers.”

When it comes to pruning evergreen winter-flowering shrubs, the expert said the “best time” to prune is in early spring, after the worst of the weather has passed. The chance of frost damage also needs to be decreased before pruning any shrub or plant.

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