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Pruning Tips for Small Trees

It’s a great time to prune almost everything. We’re in full swing in the growing season, and even if you prune too much, plants have plenty of time to recover before cooler weather comes and growth slows. One of my favorite jobs is offering pruning lessons to my clients, when I can go into great detail, and help with tough decisions. For this article, I’ll offer some general guidelines. Let’s take a look at pruning a small tree, like Ligustrum lucidum (common name ligustrum).

First, look at the shape of the tree overall. In most cases, a relatively symmetrical shape is desired. The lowest maintenance plant is one that is pruned to a natural shape; not sheared like a lollipop. One branch out of place in a sheared tree sticks out like a sore thumb, but a natural shape is much more forgiving, and you can get away with major pruning only once a year.

The very first branches you should remove from your tree are any dead or diseased ones. Do this before you cut any live branches, so that you can more clearly see the shape that is left. With live or dead branches, make your cuts at an angle, not too close and not too far from the main branch.

To be more specific, most branches have a bit of wrinkled bark (almost skin-like) just where a branch leaves the main stem. Make your cut just beyond this wrinkled bark, at an angle that mirrors the wrinkled angle.

After all dead is removed, take out any crossing branches that interfere with the shape of the tree. If in doubt, take out all limbs you’re sure about first, or take out only part of the limb in doubt. You can always remove additional limbs later, but it’s tough to put a branch back on! Remember to step back from under the tree regularly, to view your work from a different perspective. Try to open up the canopy to allow light and air to circulate through the tree. Prune for the future, so that your tree will grow with evenly spaced trunks and limbs. You may prune to allow the tree to grow to block a view and provide privacy, or prune to prevent growth towards a building. Remember that pruning is something that doesn’t have to be done all at once; you can sleep on the really tough decisions, and go back to them later. Relax and enjoy the process!

Advanced Art of Gardening Rev 10/04 Mary-Beth Wagner, Horticulturist (727) 743-5543


Roy Anderberg
Roy Anderberg Gardening
39th Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
Cell: (727) 612-4265

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