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Pruning: More than Just Pretty Plants

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about turf grass and how you can improve the soil and prep the grass to be as healthy as possible going into the warm summer months. Truth be told, the reason for this is that improper watering of turf grass is the number one use of household water and the number one cause of household overwatering. It is a big deal—especially during a drought.

It is also a key reason why we try to encourage residents to convert turf grass into California Friendly plants with mulch and ground cover. We’ve neglected that half the last few weeks and it isn’t healthy to neglect plants (that said, California Friendly plants require very little maintenance, so you might just save time and money if you pick some up).

Pruning your plants is an important step in plant care but you don’t want to get carried away. If the right-sized plant is planted in an appropriate location (think: right plant, right place), then only minor pruning will be necessary. The low branches and stems of a plant provide shade for the core and roots of the plant. The shade also keeps the surrounding soil cooler, so moisture will be retained longer. Staying low also helps keep fallen debris (e.g., leaves from the plant itself) trapped in place, allowing it to decay into nutrients for the plant. All in all, you want to err on the side of less pruning rather than more.

This is why it is even more important not to over-prune before the onset of the hot summer months. Leaving the low branches on trees and shrubs lets the plant provide much-needed shade for itself! If you have specific questions on how best to prune a plant in your garden, talk to the friendly folk at your local nursery where you bought the plant. Take a photo of the plant along with you to help the guide the conversation and you’ll be all set!

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