Pruning 101: How, when, what, and where

Do you need to fine-tune how you prune? A lot of new gardeners feel unsure when it comes to executing a cut, but with the right insights and guidelines, you can make an informed decision. Have a good look at your shrubs, trees and flowering plants with confidence — you are about to become a pruning pro.

The shear importance of pruning

Gardens require maintenance. Just like the necessity of weeding, controlled cutting and removal of vegetation assists the health of your plants. Weeding removes unnecessary coverage of ground space – not to mention unsightly clutter! It also prevents water waste. Similarly, pruning helps in redirecting resources to the plants you want to focus on. 

How pruning works

Examine the stem or branch to see the growth direction of the buds, specifically the terminal buds. (These are buds at the end of a branch where they end or terminate, hence called ‘terminal’.) The buds remain dormant due to signals from growth suppression hormone, auxin. When you apply a skilful cut in the right place at the right time, you help send a message to promote growth twofold.

In addition to promoting growth, pruning also:

  1. Controls the size and shape of plant growth.
  2. Removes diseased branches or limbs.
  3. Improves the plant’s structure.

If you need help determining if your roses, shrubs or trees are diseased, use our problem solver.

When to prune and what to use

It is important to research your individual plant’s needs, but there are general rules that can help you determine when to prune them. 

Pruning by season

The best season: Late winter or early spring

This time of year is perfect for performing your cuttings, as it is just before new growth has started to develop.

The second best: Early to mid-summer

If you need to do a follow-up trimming or missed the first opportunity, this is a great time to do foliage removal as leaf expansion has just occurred.

The least favourable: Early to mid-autumn

Try to avoid cutting at this time. Trimming your plants during this period will trigger energy that gets sent out from your plant’s reserves and could potentially damage or kill new growth.

Handy tip: try this test

For a lot of new gardeners, even the seasons can be a bit hard to read. If you are unsure, a great trick is to conduct a little test for shrubs. Observe your plant and scan to see if there is any damaged or dead wood and if any new shoots are developing. Then, scratch the surface of a stem or a branch and look to see if green gets revealed. If the plant lacks any signs of life, it’s time for a chop!


Getting the right cut is best achieved with the right tools. For smaller stems and most shrubs, use secateurs. Larger branches on thicker shrubs and small trees will require loppers or a pruning saw.

To enhance your trimming session and ensure good health of your plant, be sure to use Efekto Steriseal. This fungicidal wound paste assists in reducing infection of dieback fungi when applied immediately to pruned areas or wounds. To learn about Steriseal’s benefits and more about how to use it, explore our information sheet.


How and where to cut

Knowing where to cut makes or breaks the success of the trimming session (quite literally). But remember, plants do grow back over time, so no pressure if you make a mistake. Generally, avoid cutting in the middle of the stem and cut just above the bud.

For single-bud plants on a stem or branch, cut 1.5cm above the bud at an angle, with the high point facing outward. In the case of a stem with paired or opposite buds, also cut 1.5cm above the set of buds, but straight across. With regards to how much to cut, aim to trim no more than a third of the total length of your branch or stem. 

Good luck and make that cut

All the best for your next pruning session! We hope this guide has given you the right knowledge and tools to help you on your way. If you want more tips or have general queries, join our Efekto Whatsapp group for a direct line to our experts, or contact us through our website.