Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!

Planning before you prune and being intentional about cuts means the results will last longer and cause less damage to your shrubs.

Are you thinking about pruning your shrubs? Well, don’t use the hedge trimmers. Instead, I would recommend that you prune by hand, it’s actually faster, it’s cheaper, and it’s healthier for your shrubs.

Hi, I’m Basil, and today we are talking about pruning shrubs. And I want to start by showing you why these hedge trimmers are not usually the best for pruning your shrubs. So come on over. I want to show you an azalea.

This is an azalea; it’s something we often see in the landscape here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And before I begin, I am putting on some safety equipment. I would recommend always using eye and ear protection if you are going to use hedge trimmers. Alright, let’s begin.

Ok, we finished sheering this azalea using hedge trimmers, and because of the nature of the hedge trimmers, we can’t really control what or where, or how we are cutting. So we have lots of branches that have been split, and have jagged ends, leaves that have been cut in half. Lots of damage on a micro scale for each of the individual branches. But the worst problem is we cut off many of the buds that actually regulate the growth of this plant. With those buds now gone, we are going to see an explosion of new growth. It’s the hydra effect; you cut off one head or, in this case, branch, and a bunch of new ones pop back. Now we will have to do a lot more maintenance, a lot more sheering with this shrub. So what I would like to do next is to use these Felcos and show you an alternative way to prune your shrubs.

One of the big advantages of Felcos is that we are able to make very clean cuts so we don’t have to worry about jagged edges, and split branches and leaves being cut in half. We are able to make cuts that will heal. The other big advantage with using hand pruners, like these Felcos, we can be very precise about where we make our cuts. That’s very important, and by being precise we are able to avoid the hydra effect. We won’t have this issue of cutting the buds, which regulate growth. This means our work will stay in effect for longer. This is good, this means less maintenance, less money, that sort of thing. So I’m gonna show you three specific cuts that we can use to hand prune this, or any other shrub.

Ok, so the first cut we are going to make is cutting a main branch to a side lateral. And this is the effect, we have reduced the length of the branch, and now these can sustain the growth of this branch and regulate the growth so that we don’t have the hydra effect.

So another cut that we will use is cutting these side laterals back to a main branch. This is a great example right here. We’ll just make that cut right here. Now here is the cool thing here is the main still has the buds necessary to control the growth of the remaining portions of the branch.

A third type of cut that we will often make is cutting a central branch out from between two or three or four others. And you want to get as deep as you can and you’re not always going to be able to get all the way down. Just the way that it is, it will still heal. But again, these side laterals will regulate the growth of the remaining portion of the branch.

So I have shown you these three basic cuts that we will be using. Now we are going to apply those cuts. And you can apply them in many different ways; it just depends on what your goals are. My goal for this azalea is to reduce the size. I kinda want to make it look like the other one that we sheered, although maybe not as rounded. I would like the bring the form in a little bit. So I’m going to be going after some of these longer branches. And I will be making those precise cuts like we’ve talked about.

That’s really all I wanted. I just sort of wanted to get that leggy growth off. And the interesting thing is we have basically the same effect we had on the other azalea. We had the leggy growth was gone, but the plant will react a lot more positively to way we have pruned here. There aren’t the jagged and cut branches, and we haven’t cut it in such a way that we are going to see an explosion of growth.

So let’s compare these two methodologies. On the one hand, the hedge trimming is faster on an individual basis. That said, you can actually get pretty fast at hand pruning. But we gotta look at the effect of hedge trimming. It creates the hydra effect, which means new sprouts pop up and you have to sheer it again and again. This happens all growing season. We have clients and sites where you have to prune and sheer 5 or 6 times per season. In comparison, when we are hand pruning, and being careful about where we make the cuts we might only have to prune once a year. Or even once every two years. So when we are looking at the different ways to prune over the long term this hand pruning option is cheaper, it’s faster, and let’s not forget it’s healthier for the plant.

Start your next project with us!

Get a free quote for tree and shrub care, compost tea, planting, pruning, Piedmont Prairies, Pocket Forests, and more!

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

[Case Study] Before and After: Structural Pruning on an Oak Tree
Are Your Trees Safe? Prune to Make Them Stronger.
Not Sure How to Care for your Trees? 4 Simple Steps to Happy, Healthy Trees
How to Select a Safe Branch for a Tree Swing
How to Perform Structural Pruning
Video | How to Perform Structural Pruning
Video | How to Perform the 3-Cut Pruning Method
How to Properly Prune Using the 3-Cut Method and The Reduction Cut
April 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Learn How to Save Time and Help Heal Earth in Our New Book
Setting the Stage—A Conversation About Why Change is Necessary
Tree Root Structure
January 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Point of View: 2023 Year in Review at Leaf & Limb
November 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Bats are the Best (and, Unfortunately, They're Endangered)
October 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | The Story of A Seed
September 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Meadows, Thickets, and Pocket Forests: Going Beyond the Traditional Landscaping Model
Strength in Numbers: The Basics of a Pocket Forest
Wondering How to Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
August 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | From Seeds to Serenity: The Piedmont Prairie Process
10 Native Flowers and Grasses to Plant in a Central North Carolina Piedmont Prairie
July 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Tree Roots Don't Break Pipes
Do Roots Cause Damage? Debunking 3 Common Myths About Tree Roots
Stop Blaming Tree Roots: 5 Ways to Proactively Prevent Property Damage
June 2023 Treecologist Tribune
10 Native Shrubs to Plant in Central North Carolina
Video | How to Manage Invasive Plants
Managing Invasive Plants
May 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Earth Day is Every Day
Plants Make the Planet Go Round
Spring Scavenger Hunt
March Treecologist Tribune
We Are Safe At All Times: Our Approach to Tree-Climbing Safety
Video | Climbing with Archie: How to Climb a Tree Like an Arborist
Video | Day in the Life
February Treecologist Tribune
Why I Recommend Herbicide for Some Ecological Restoration Projects
Point of View: Behind the Scenes at Leaf & Limb
Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!
Checklist: Tools and Supplies for Hand Pruning Your Shrubs
Still Using Hedge Trimmers? Hand Pruning is Better for Your Shrubs
January 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Sapling Stories: Bald Cypress
October 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Friend or Foe? Snakes (Yes, Even Copperheads) Are Important to Our Ecosystem.
Project Pando Needs Your Help! How to Collect Native Tree Seeds
Project Pando: Community Seed Collection
Video | Piedmont Prairies: An Alternative to Grass and Lawns Where Beauty and Life Thrive!
August 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Planting a Piedmont Prairie Helped Change the Way I See the World
Piedmont Prairies: The Process & What to Expect
Video | How to Structurally Prune a Tree for Strength
[Case Study] Before and After: Structural Pruning on an Oak Tree
Video | How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | Bigger is Not Always Better! Planting Small Can Lead to Big Benefits.
Bigger is Not Better! 3 Reasons Why You Should Plant Trees When They are Smaller
Video | How Invasives Harm Our Local Ecosystem (And the ONE Thing You Can Do to Help)
How Invasive Trees and Shrubs Harm Our Local Ecosystem and One Way You Can Reverse That Damage
10 Invasive Plants to Watch Out for in Central North Carolina
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Fascinators and Flagella: How to Host a Tea Party for Soil Microbes
Compost Tea Makes Soil Healthy and Trees Happy
Video | Tea for Your Trees
Video | Mulch Volcanoes: Deceptively Deadly
Are Mulch Volcanoes Threatening The Trees in Your Neighborhood?
Sapling Stories: Beryl's Beauties
Video | Sheep, Seeds, and Swales: An Update from Project Pando
6 Reasons Why Planting A Native Tree Benefits the Environment and Our Local Ecosystem
Video | Drop That Rake: Save Time and Money by Leaving Your Leaves
Project Pando: Native Seed Drive 2021
Video | How to Plant a Tree: The Definitive Guide to Proper Planting
10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Planted Tree or Shrub
Video | 3 Ways City Life Stresses Trees (And What You Can Do to Help)
Why is Tree Care Important? Outside of the Forest, Trees Face Unique Challenges.
Emerald Ash Borers are Killing Trees. A Simple Treatment Can Stop Them.
Business Conservationist of the Year
Video | Did you Know? The Secret to Fertilizing your Trees and Shrubs Without Using Chemicals.
Chemical Fertilizers: 3 Surprising Myths and Why You Should Choose Organic Matter Instead
4 Options for Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs the Cheap, Easy, and Healthy Way
Video | 4 Fundamentals of Tree Care
Not Sure How to Care for your Trees? 4 Simple Steps to Happy, Healthy Trees
[Parody] Video | Introducing Timber: the Only Dating App for Trees
Video | Introducing Archie the Arborist: 5 Amazing Tree Facts
We Show That We Care: The History of Project Pando
How to Spot a Pine Borer Infestation
Video | How to Plant a Tree: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up a Shovel
Drop that shovel! 5 Questions to Ask Before Planting
10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina
Holiday Gift Guide for That Special Tree in Your Life
Measure What Matters - We are B Corp Certified!
Video | Wood Chips: The Secret Ingredient to Healthy Trees
Top 10 Reasons to Choose Wood Chips Over Other Types of Mulch
Healthy Eating Plate for Trees
Video | Welcome to Project Pando
Video | Structure is Strength - How to Make your Trees More Safe Using Pruning.
Are Your Trees Safe? Prune to Make Them Stronger.
How to Select a Safe Branch for a Tree Swing
Your Dirt is Hungry
Video | Soil is Alive
Recipe: Savory Soil Casserole
How Trees Can Heal Earth & What We Can Do to Help
Earth Day Bingo
Video | How Trees Can Save the Earth
Spring Tree Care Checklist
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Don't Make a Deadly Mistake: Top 10 Questions to Consider Before Pruning
Video | Planning to Prune? Use this simple framework and avoid deadly mistakes.
Video | Rooted by Our Purpose: A New Direction at Leaf & Limb
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want More Birds in your Backyard? Plant These Native Trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Trees' Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb Send an Intercom Message