Is there a trick to pruning shrubs?

Special to The Baltimore Sun

Question: What's the trick to making pruned shrubs look good? Mine look hacked up and then don't grow the way I want.

Answer: Try to work with the plant's natural growth habit. If it wants to cascade, don't try to make it round or square. If its natural inclination is to have multiple trunks, you can make it a single trunk, but it will need continual pruning of new trunks. Shrubs look more natural if you cut back to a larger branch or a bud. The direction a bud or branch is pointing, is the direction new growth will go. Thus you can control the direction of your plant's branch by cutting to a bud that faces the direction you want. One advantage of early spring pruning is that new growth soon hides the cuts. A final tip: If you must continually prune a plant to keep it under control, consider replacing it. Pruning does not stop growth — it stimulates growth. See our online pruning fact sheet for details at

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