How to Trim Bushes

By Renee Gerber , last updated April 20, 2011

If you are a homeowner who uses plants for landscaping, you probably have a few bushes and shrubs on your property, and you will need to trim your bushes periodically. This is necessary to maintain your bush's proper shape as well as to ensure the best possible health of the plant.

Making sure you trim your bushes properly is extremely important. Not only does this ensure that you maintain an appropriate shape for your bush, it also helps to keep your plants healthy. Proper trimming will also promote the growth of brand new buds, which will come in where the old, dead and diseased pieces are cut. On the flipside, improper pruning and trimming can lead to adverse effects on the bush, including a lack or even ceasing of new growth.

When you are planning on trimming your bushes, you should create a plan on how to do so. First of all, consider the reason why you are cutting your plants. Try to make your cuts in a specific order, and limit the cuts unless you spot dead, damaged or diseased wood. Proper trimming also requires you to cut entire branches, usually all the way to the collar of the trunk or shoot, depending on the individual plant. Make small cuts at a time and step back to inspect your work.

Trimming should take place at different times of the year, depending on what type of plant you are cutting. Generally speaking, winter or early spring is the best time to trim your bushes. This is when the plant is dormant and there are no buds sprouting. This is a good time to do your trimming because you are ensured to not harm any buds.

There are different types of shears you can use to trim or prune your bushes and other plants. Decide on which are most appropriate for the job you are doing. You can use pruning or lopping shears that have large or small scissor action or those with anvil action that appear more like pliers. Always make sure your shears are sharp, clean and in good general working condition. When you trim away diseased parts of plants, you should disinfect the shears immediately afterward to prevent the spread of the ailment to your other plants. Alcohol or bleach are good disinfectants to use.

Always make your cuts smooth and clean when trimming your bushes. Leaving stubs is not recommended, because the rest of that branch will only end up dying, and then you will have double the trimming job on your hands. If you do happen to notice a new bud where a dead or diseased branch is that needs trimming, you will have to cut back to the bud. In this instance, you really have no choice, as the bud will suffer if it is growing near to the ill wood.

Make sure to cut away branches at an angle of no more than 45 degrees. Also, keep your cuts to a slant to ensure that the area can properly heal.

Another key reason to trim your bushes is to bring them back to their natural shape when they become unruly, or to give them a specific shape you want. In many cases, a wire template will come in handy for this. You can purchase these items at your local nursery or home improvement store.

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