Tuesday, June 03, 2014 | The Greenery, Inc.

The Greenery, Inc. – Tuesday, June 03, 2014

By Miles Graves, The Greenery, Operations Manager

Many of us work very hard to make our plants as healthy as possible. We do research online, talk to our neighbors, attend gardening seminars, fertilize, spray them with chemicals to prevent insects and disease and the list goes on. However, there is one simple thing many homeowners overlook that can accomplish all this without money from your pocket or chemicals in the environment. What is it???? ……. Proper pruning.

Most people have been trained to believe that “shearing” shrubs and bushes is an appropriate method of pruning. While some plant material like Boxwood, Podocarpus and Dwarf yaupon holly do respond to shearing well, 95% of all shrubs should NOT be sheared. This method of pruning is detrimental in many ways:
1. It requires more frequent pruning to maintain a consistent form. This leads to the removal of many flowering shrubs buds and blooms (ie Azaleas, Camelias, Gardenias, etc.) If you don’t know when these plants set their buds and merely when they bloom, then you are more than likely pruning off potential flowers.
2. It creates a “skeleton” plant. Everyone has seen this. A shrub with about 3 inches of foliage on the outside and absolutely no leaves inside. This creates several problems:

  • a. reduced foliage equals less photosenthesis (energy production)
  • b. Less air movement leading to increased moisture within the canopy. This results in more susceptibility to disease and higher insect infestations.
  • c. increased pruning frequency creates a cycle of a plant always trying to recover and heal itself from the cuts. This expends valuable energy and also makes it more susceptible to disease.

 3. Shearing typically is done with gas powered trimmers. This adds to additional noise pollution and carbon emissions. While this may only be a small drop in the bucket, we should all do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. And who likes to listen to loud hedge clippers versus and completely silent hand clipper.

The pruning technique we utilize in Sun City is referred to as “Heading Back”. It is a pruning process well established in the green industry. So now you are asking yourself…. “Why don’t most landscapers use it then?”. Because it takes time to train staff, more time to perform the work and creates more debris. All these things cost a landscape company money.
So the next time you go to prune your shrubs, ask yourself…. “am I doing this because everyone else does it, or am I doing it for the health and performance of my plant?
If you have any questions feel free to contact us at or find us on facebook. You can also read more about the “heading back” technique from the Clemson website.