How to formatively prune a deciduous shrub

Pruning a shrub

Pruning immediately after planting is known as formative pruning, as it directs the future shape of the plant. The aim is to develop a balanced structure of branches with an even spread of foliage, flowers or fruit.

Because plant growth hormones are concentrated in the shoot tips, shortening or removing stems redirects hormones to produce more and stronger shoots, so weak stems should be pruned hard and vigorous ones lightly.

Unpruned growth can become long and straggly; the exception is where a tree or shrub has a single main stem or ‘leader’, which shouldn’t be touched. The amount of pruning depends on plant type: deciduous hedging plants, raspberry canes and currant bushes are cut hard back all over, while most trees and shrubs need selective, formative pruning. Newly planted rambling roses like a formative prune to encourage growth from the base, but hard pruning of other types of rose is generally done in late winter.

Discover our step by step advice on formatively pruning a deciduous shrub, below.

Newly planted rambling roses like a formative prune to encourage growth from the base.

You will need:

The right tool is essential for this task – for more information read our guide to tools for pruning. If you’re looking to update your kit, our experts have been busy testing the best secateurs, so you can buy with confidence.

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