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Guide To: Tip Pruning Or A Serious Cut Back

Guide To: Tip Pruning Or A Serious Cut Back

Do you know how to tip prune outdoor plants?

Sometimes we are so desperate to see that little plant reach his full potential. We just scored a new pair of those Japanese handmade secateurs and we are itching to try them out on that newly planted baby.

Hang on.. Is this the best way to go? Let’s think about this, we have a shrub, let’s assume it is a Murraya min a min. There is an image in our head of just how we envisage it in our carefully planned garden, it looks amazing, but in reality, you end up with a plant that looks like the dog has had a chew and it is looking rather thin and leggy. 

Assuming it has good soil, water and fertilizer then the key to making your vision a reality is TIP PRUNING.

Triple T is our formula

  • TIP early

Don’t be afraid to start trimming when your plant is quite young. The sooner you start, the better your plant will look long term. You know what they say ‘ short term pain for long term gain’. This way you end up with nice bushy growth low to the ground. 

  • Trim small amounts often in the growing season

Tip pruning is exactly as it sounds, you are just cutting the tips off each branch. How much to cut your shrub will depend on the variety, but generally 1-4cm is plenty or 1 to 2 nodes meaning

"the point on a plant stem where the leaves emerge. Often there is a slight swelling. Specialised cells carry the information for the plant to produce new shoots, leaves flowers and fruit'"

Generally, each cut branch will send out two new shoots and that process continues each time you trim your plant. 

  • Time to leave it alone in Winter and even Autumn

No growth in Winter means no point in pruning, you get to just admire your handy work.

Is there a time when a good hard cutback is OK? Yes definitely.

Let’s say your Murraya hedge has reached 3 metres and you have decided that you would like to bring it back to that 2-metre mark. 

You are going to need some equipment that is a bit more heavy-duty if you are cutting back to where the branches are woody and thicker. A good rule of thumb is to cut one third off the height of your hedge. 

It’s scary, I know but trust me, you can do this and in a few months fresh new shoots will start to show up everywhere and your two-metre-high hedge now looks a treat.

Knowing when to prune can be a bit tricky but after flowering is a good time. If you are in an area where you receive frost then you don’t want any fresh new growth that can get damaged on those cold frosty mornings so time it right.

For those of us who are happy to let our plants grow pretty much as nature intended then a tidy up prune a couple of times a year is all that is needed. It is really just about removing those out of place branches and a bit of a trim to keep the foliage nice and thick. Plants like Lilly Pillies respond well to this treatment.


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