Basic Pruning Guide

Pruned to Perfection

Pruning time is here and, as is the case with most tasks, having the right tools and materials can make a world of difference.

pruning guide lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop johannesburg gautengWHY DO WE PRUNE?

  • To encourage plant growth.
  • To shape the plant.
  • To promote flowers and fruit.
  • To discard of diseased and dead wood.
  • To remove all weak shoots and underdeveloped wood.
  • To repair frost and storm damage.



As a general rule, fruit trees and bushes are best dealt with any time during their dormant season.  The main exceptions to this rule are with peaches which should be left until just before they begin to grow in the spring.

Citrus trees do not need to be pruned generally, except for cutting out dead branches or when the tree becomes overgrown.  It’s advisable to remove a few of the lower branches on the young tree to encourage growth into a standard tree and so promote good air circulation.

Ornamentals grown for their foliage, both evergreen and deciduous, can also be pruned at this time.

pruning lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop johannesburg gauteng


The case with flowering shrubs is slightly different as they are of two basic types:

  • Those that flower before midsummer (winter and spring flowering shrubs) on shoots which grew in the previous year. These should be pruned straight after flowering to ensure that the maximum amount of time is allowed for next year’s flowering shoots to develop. Examples:  Hydrangeas, Viburnum,
  • Those that flower after midsummer (summer and autumn flowering shrubs) on shoots of the current season’s growth. These must be pruned in late autumn (if hardy), or in late winter to early spring, (if sensitive to frost) before their growth starts to give the longest amount of time for the new shoots to grow.  Examples:  Buddleia, Spiraea, Elderberry, Lagerstroemia, Tecomaria and Plumbago.

So, as a rule of thumb: if you are at a loss as to when to prune a shrub, wait until it flowers, that will provide the answer in the vast majority of cases.

Semi hardy and tender shrubs should rather be pruned later in August after the danger of frost has passed. This includes plants like Hibiscus, Solanum (potato bushes) and Duranta. If frost does occur, the frosted leaves will protect the lower part of the shrub.

Prune all roses from mid-July until the first week in August.  They can be shaped and lightly pruned again in January for another flush of flowers. For a comprehensive step by step rose pruning guide click |HERE|.


Bonsai are very interesting specimens, and it is important to not only prune branches but to also prune the roots. Bonsai need to be pruned on a regular basis, in order to maintain their shape and miniature style.

Click |HERE| to learn more about bonsai and how to prune their branches and leaves.


  • Ensure that secateur and lopper blades are kept clean and sharp at all times.  After each pruning, dip the blades in a strong bleach solution to sterilize.
  • Make clean cuts at a slight angle just above a leaf node, but not so close that it will damage the bud and not so far that a long, dead stub will remain.
  • Never cut a branch or shoot simply for the sake of doing so; always remove it for a definite reason.
  • Make clear, clean cuts and avoid bruising stems.
  • After pruning, spray the plants with an insecticide and fungicide cocktail to kill any insect eggs and fungi spores that might be present in the ‘wound’.
  • Sprinkle a handful of bone meal and 2:3:2 around the plant and water well.
  • Spread a layer of compost or any mulch of your choice around the plant, taking care to keep a small area around the stem free to avoid fungal infection. 


Keep an eye on your plants throughout the year for signs of diseased branches, broken branches or branches that are bruised from rubbing together and remove immediately.

Check for water sprouts and root suckers at the base of trees and shrubs. These will spoil the shape of the plant and compete with roots for nutrition. Remove these immediately as close to their point of growth as possible.

A bit of hard work, yes, but your thankful plants will reward you with bright buds, beautiful blooms, juicy fruit and strong, healthy growth. 

Happy pruning!

pruning guide lifestyle home garden nursery plant shop johannesburg gauteng

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