A shrub is a small or medium-sized woody plant smaller than a tree with multiple stems that branch from or close to the ground. They improve the beauty of a property. Shrubs planted in a row form a hedge. Shrub trimming is cutting off branches of a shrub that overgrown or have abnormal growth to improve and regulate the appearance of the shrub.

Shrub pruning is more technical than trimming, it goes a step further. It involves cutting off dead, diseased or decaying branches. It requires more thought, skill, and technicality than trimming. It involves the thoughtful selection of branches to cut or remove to improve not only the appearance of the shrub but also to improve and maintain its health.

Shrub trimming and pruning go hand in hand. They can be used interchangeably. Trimming and pruning of shrubs can be done without professional help with the right knowledge. The following are tips to prevent damage to your shrub or hedge while trimming and pruning.

Use the right tools. Selection of appropriate gardening tools to trim or prune your shrub is very important as the wrong tool can damage your plant and stunt its growth. For example, the bypass pruning shears is safer in that it causes significantly less damage to the shrubs than the anvil pruning shears. The bypass pruning shears can also be safely used in denser regions. The anvil pruning shear is more powerful than the bypass pruning shear hence its makes cutting of older, stronger branches easier. For hedge trimming, longer blades give rise to more evenly cut hedges.

Know your shrub. Is it a flowering or non-flowering shrub? When does it bloom – spring, summer, or autumn? Is it an established shrub? Has it overcome the shock of transplanting and harsh weather conditions? How fast does it grow? Is it overgrown? These are some of the questions to be answered before attempting to prune your shrub. For blooming shrubs, trimming is better done during the winter period when it is dormant. This gives the plant time to heal and prevent stunting its growth.

Non-flowering shrubs can be trimmed almost anytime during the year except late autumn. If the shrub is trimmed during late autumn, new branches that grow after trimming won’t have time to mature before the plant becomes dormant. Established shrubs and hedges can be safely trimmed and pruned. They would grow back easily. For newly transplanted shrubs, they should be given a season before pruning. Plants in shock should be allowed to recover before trimming. A plant is in shock if it requires supplemental watering in humid periods.

Have a plan. What is your aim? What do you want to achieve? An overall improvement in the shrub? Or a reduction in the size of the shrub? Do you want to reshape the shrub? Or give it allowance to increase in size? Having a set goal would help organize and give direction to your pruning. Also, know what your shrub needs. Either a light trimming or a major renewal pruning. Have the right amount of confidence. Timid trimming has no significant improvement on the shrub. Over cutting could damage the shrub and lead to the stunted growth of your shrub and hedge.

Cut correctly. Cut the shrub at a slight angle such that the base is broader than the tip. The width of the shrub should be wider at the base and narrower at the tip. This allows sunlight to reach the leaves at the base and prevents the death of leaves and branches at the base. Cutting correctly gives rise to a shrub or hedge with uniform health. Cut one-third of the shrub for moderate pruning. For overgrown shrubs, it might require more than one-third of the plant to be cut.

To avoid overcutting and to get a uniform hedge, set two stakes at the edges of the hedge lengthwise and tie a rope firmly between them. Let the rope be at the desired height. The outcome of this is an evenly cut hedge at the desired height.

Cut branch at the collar. It is important to cut the branch at the point just after it is connected to the stem. The collar is the bark swell that surrounds the branch. An intact collar grows to cover the wound (cut region). Stubs on the other hand rots and might become diseased.

Be properly informed. Acquire correct and adequate knowledge before you trim your shrub. Read gardening books and materials. Avoid misinformation.

Be protected. The use of gloves and protective eyeglasses is important. Your eyes need to be protected from splinters. You want to avoid injuries while trimming and pruning your shrub.