One-Third Rule for Pruning Shrubs

The 1/3 Rule for Pruning Shrubs

A moderate pruning practice of trimming just 1/3 is performed to avoid unnecessary damage to the plant. While Edenapp recommends this practice to stimulate new growth, others prune to achieve their desired shape. 

While both approaches provide different benefits, they offer the same importance – to get rid of dead, broken or damaged branches. And pruning shrubs is crucial because it prevents decay, makes your landscape or lawn look more enticing, encourages new growth, and takes care of the overall health of the shrubs, plants, and trees. In the course of elevating your landscape, pruning helps in protecting your property by removing low-growing branches, promoting plant health, and reducing insect and pest control while enhancing plant growth.

What is the 1/3 Rule for Pruning Shrubs?

The 1/3 rule for pruning shrubs refers to the practice of cutting about 1/3 of wood or a branch. This approach is applied to fully established shrubs and small trees. This is done at this stage since the established shrubs and plants are past their transplant shock. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be given the time to establish their roots and stems before going through any major pruning process. 

Pruning Shrubs

To maintain plant vigor and restore new growth from dormant buds, the rule of pruning 1/3 provides more than what a timid or bold pruning can do. In this process, the Edenapp experts remove the stems of the shrubs, typically from the top section, keeping the foliage and nutrients in balance. This will allow more sunlight and air on your lawn and lead your plants to heal faster. 

What is the Importance of the 1/3 Rule for Pruning Shrubs?

The moderate and decent 1/3 pruning is important for your plants and shrubs to get out of their dormant state and prepare themselves for new growth. This new approach influences a tree’s ability to withstand insects and pests.

However, improper pruning can ruin or degrade the potential landscape, lawn, and garden or yard. Too much pruning can reduce foliage, or your shrubs and plant can exhaust themselves from trying to replenish. On the other hand, less pruning can bring little to no result. 

Is the 1/3 Rule Proper Way to Prune Shrubs?

Pruning shrubs or pruning a bush should be executed at the right time while using the right techniques and to an ideal length. The 1/3 rule is the proper way of pruning the shrubs, but few gardeners are skeptical about this rule. Well, Edenapp recommends this practice for a reason. While the 1/3 rule helps in restoring the balance between the number of stems lost and the water and nutrients required for new growth, it also assists the shrubs in your lawns to come out of their panic mode. Too much pruning can exhaust your lawn, and too less can stimulate nothing like the 1/3 rule can.

Which Plants Does the Rule of 1/3 Apply?

Not every shrub can respond positively to the 1/3 rule for pruning. Hence, Edenapp shares the name of certain shrubs that can achieve improved growth through this rule. 

  1. Rose shrubs – Using hand pruners or loppers, you should remove all canes except for the thickest and healthiest canes. If you have shrub roses, consider cutting the spindly canes by half their length and removing diseased canes. 
  2. Coneflower/ Peach Leaf Bellflower (Perennial plant) – When your plant is mature, remove 1/3 of the plant’s stems at ground level for the process of thinning out the perennial plants. This will make your plants sturdier and increase air circulation while preventing mildew and other diseases. 
  3. Canary Grass – This plant may look stressed out, discolored, and tattered by mid-summer. Cutting back 1/3 of the stems with a proper schedule can promote new, vigorous, healthy growth.
  4. Chrysanthemums (Herbaceous plants) – Some herbaceous plants may grow tall and spindly. To prevent this growth and maintain a plant that renders more flowers while keeping itself in shape, you can pinch 1/3 of the stems. This process can be followed each week for two more weeks.
  5. French Marigold/ Scarlet Sage (Annuals) – The 1/3 rule for pruning should be followed the same way it is mentioned for herbaceous plants.
  6. A tomato plant – Consider pinching or pruning using your hands instead of a pruning tool. Remove suckers, cut at the internode between the 4th and 5th leaf, and avoid cutting close to the stem you want to keep. You should start pruning when there are six leaves per stem on your tomato plant. 
  7. Basil – Basil should be pruned when it has developed 6–8 pairs of true leaves. You can pinch using the 1/3 rule and above where the plant is branching. Regular pinching or pruning at this stage will encourage new growth while delaying bolting.

When Should You Apply the 1/3 Rule?

The pruning season is pretty vital for the betterment of your garden or yard. It leads to removing the dead and unwanted branches and stems that could block the growth of trees or plants in your yard. It should be noted that the 1/3 rule is only applicable to established plants and shrubs. The new plants won’t be able to survive the process, and therefore, they should be given at least two seasons to reach maturity before going through the pruning process. If you sense the need to prune your newly planted plants, then at least wait for their roots to establish. Apart from this, the best time to apply the 1/3 rule for pruning would be late winter or spring before the onset of new growth. 

Pruning Plants

When is the 1/3 Rule not Enough for Pruning Shrubs?

Even though the 1/3 rule for pruning is effective for most shrubs and plants, such as the rose bushes, it is not always enough for all the shrubs. It is crucial to note that there are shrubs that can overgrow and can even go out of control which is why a technique like rejuvenation pruning is implemented. 

Rejuvenation pruning involves the removal of an entire shrub from six to 12 inches above the ground. The result will probably leave you with an unattractive clump of stems for a while, but over time, the shrub will quickly restore itself into a newly shaped and improved shrub. Spirea, potentilla, dogwood, hydrangea, forsythia, lilac, and weigela are some of the shrubs that tend to go out of control quite badly. 

What Tools Do You Need for 1/3 Rule?

Pruning tools, such as a pair of bypass garden scissors, are critical to executing the fragile 1/3 rule for pruning since the wrong usage of pruning tools with the proper expertise can land you a messy lawn prone to pests and diseases. 

  1. Pruning shears/Hand pruners – Pruning shear or hand shear is every gardener’s handy tool that they probably love to carry to the lawns or gardens. While this tool is light and small enough to carry around in your pocket, it can also easily make precise cuts on soft, small branches and stems. To effectively make the cut, gently hold the branch or stem in between the blades and cut it according to your desired angle. You can maintain the dense shrubs in your garden by removing up to 1/4 inch in diameter, employing the 1/3 rule.
  2. A pair of bypass garden scissors or garden shears – Pruners come in two categories – bypass pruners and anvil pruners. While anvil pruners are unable to render precise cuts, bypass pruners are recommended by Edenapp to cut through the branches considering the precision they render.
  3. Pruning saws – This particular pruning tool might seem like a large piece of equipment for pruning shrubs. However, pruning saws are designed specially to prune shrubs in situations that the anvil pruner and loppers won’t be able to handle. With their sharp blade and curved blades, you can make precise cuts and even reach a height that some of the other pruning tools can’t. 
  4. Loppers – Hand pruners lose their attributes the moment you’re dealing with branches greater than about 1/4 inch in diameter. Therefore, rather than making an improper cut and risking your shrub’s health, you must use loppers that are essentially larger and strong enough for cutting thicker branches, stems, or roots. 

However, Edenapp recommends keeping your pruning tools clean not only to enhance their life expectancy and prevent disease-causing bacteria. To comprehend more information, visit our website or contact us today. 

Enjoy a beautifully manicured lawn with our timely yard work services that care for your yard according to the season. Call us today!

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