How to Prune a Plant
As counterintuitive as cutting living leaves and flowers from your plants seems, pruning is an important part of gardening, ensuring health and beauty for your plants. Deadheading, removing dead leaves and flowers, is a subset of pruning that will also actively improve the health of your plants. The knowledge behind pruning, knowing when to prune, what to remove, and how to prune without doing more harm than good, is imperative for promoting a healthy and fruitful plant-cycle. The pruning process is used for a very simple set of goals:
- Increasing the number of leaves with access to sunlight to improve photosynthesis.
- Promoting growth by reducing the number of limbs which need nutrients.
- Removing dead and decaying plant matter to improve health.
- Training and shaping the plant to guide where it’s growing.
When to Prune
Always do some research before you do any major pruning. Regular deadheading isn’t a problem because the limbs are already dead, but removing living material from a plant can shock the plant’s system, leading to permanent damage if not done properly. While the majority of flowering and fruiting plants prefer to be pruned while dormant, others should be pruned just after flowering. On smaller plants, pruning just after nightfall or the end of an artificial day-cycle is best. A few plants require continuous pruning and deadheading to stay strong and continually flower. Pruning should receive extra emphasis early on in a plants’ life to encourage busier growth. When pruning hydroponically, you should trim and stake the plants to train them when they’re a few weeks old, typically around a foot tall.
How to Prune a Branch
- It’s a good idea to add some B vitamins to your plant a few hours before pruning. Add nutrients or growth fertilizers as part of your hydroponic feed or as a spray to make sure the plant uptakes the new nutrients.
- Remove dead leaves and branches first. Be sure to dispose of all dead or pruned plant material away from the growing plants to prevent disease.
- Find lower branches and leaves that are not receiving light. Remove these branches. If your plant is becoming too top-heavy, thin out some of the upper branches to expose the lower branches to more light.
- Use a pair of quality shears to prune plants. Dull shears or scissors can damage the plant and make it more difficult for the plant to heal, increasing the risk of disease or dieback.
- Always make your cuts close to the stem, roughly one inch (three to four centimeters) from the join. Leaving too much of the stem can cause a snag, leading to future damage.
- If you’re trimming above a pair of new buds which are positioned opposite each other, make the cut flat. Otherwise, be sure to cut at a small angle.
- If you have two stems which are rubbing against each other, cut one back to prevent surface damage and possible disease.
Since removing plant material means increased nutrients to the remainder, it’s a key method for increasing fruit size and quality. You’ll also find that many gardeners dip their hands and tools in milk prior to pruning to help reduce the chance of disease and increase the rate of healing for their plants. Let us know how it goes with your plants, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram for more tips and guides.