Shearing and Hand Pruning 101 – What You Should Know

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    Any homeowner with shrubbery should learn the basics of shearing and hand pruning. Not only is it a relaxing and rewarding pastime, but it promotes healthy plant growth, and keeps your yard looking its best. At High Prairie Outdoors, we receive many questions about the importance of shearing and its benefit to the garden. Here, we will discuss this and offer a brief guide to get you started.

    What is Pruning and Why Should We Prune?

    Pruning is the act of removing overgrown, dead, diseased, or damaged branches, stems, and foliage from trees, shrubs, hedges, and other greenery. While pruning reduces the size of these plants at first glance, the act of pruning encourages new growth. For flower and fruit giving plants, pruning can increase blooms and produce.

    There are many reasons to prune, including:

    • Damage that may attract insects
    • Signs of disease that may spread to other areas of the plant
    • Overgrowth that could cause the plant to droop and become damaged
    • Aesthetics to align the plant with your vision for your garden
    • Danger to your property if the plant or tree is growing too near your home or a power line

    When Should My Plants be Pruned & Which Tools Should I Use?

    Depending on the types of plants on your property, you may find yourself pruning sporadically throughout the year, or only during certain seasons. Below you will find a list of common plant types and their associated pruning times:

    • Late Winter or Early Spring – Vines, flowering trees, shrubs
    • Spring or fall – Perennial plants
    • Early Spring – Evergreen trees and shrubs

    You also need to prune any plants that produce berries on your property. This should be done as soon as the plant goes dormant and stops producing. Similarly, fruit trees should be pruned after they have finished the cycle of fruit production and go dormant.

    Before getting started you should invest in a set of:

    • Loppers
    • Hedge shears
    • Hand pruners
    • Pruning saw

    Plants to Prune and How to Prune Them

    Rose Bushes

    One of nature’s most beautiful creations, the rose bush, requires a lot of help in terms of pruning. These plants should be pruned annually to keep blooms bright and healthy. Shrub roses should be trimmed at the cane, left no longer than 3-ft in length. A good rule is that each cane should be trimmed by half. If you are growing a hybrid plant, you should cut all canes sprouting from below the graft line. This is the line where the plant is attached to the root and looks like a bulb in the stem. Leave no more than 5 canes, choosing the strongest and healthiest to remain with outward-facing buds.


    Shrubs are a staple of many landscaped gardens and invite a wealth of color and shapes into a yard. The best rule for shrub pruning is to try to emphasize the natural shape of the plant. Remove the tips of branches and overgrown foliage with loppers, being careful to cut dead or decaying branches down to the root. Cut on an angle leaving roughly half an inch between the bud and the cut. For a large branch, simply cut to the site of a lateral or smaller connecting branch.


    Hedges make a great edging component to any property and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. To prune evergreen hedges, you will need to be diligent, pruning throughout the season at the sight of new growths over the line you are trying to enforce. As hedges are usually clipped into aesthetic shapes, with straight or curved lines, the final shape of the hedge is up to you. This can be done with hand pruners. If you are working on hedges of a non-evergreen variety, you may require loppers. The key to beautiful hedges is ensuring sunlight can reach all the branches, even those at the base of the plant.


    Trees do not require the same attention as shrubs and hedges. However, pruning still helps trees grow healthier blooms and fruit. If your tree is damaged or diseased, you may need to prune back branches to the collar. A pruning saw is the best tool for branches over an inch and a half in diameter. Hand pruners work for smaller branches, cutting back to outward-facing buds.

    Contact High Prairie Outdoors

    Interested in learning more about pruning, or looking for a professional landscaping provider with experienced pruners? High Prairie Outdoors can help. Contact us at 1-816-398-2901 for more details.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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