How to - Techniques

Reach for the pruners, these plants are more forgiving than you may think

The right tool
My favourite secateurs are the classic Swiss-made Felco No. 2s; my pair is almost 20 years old and still going strong. They’re easy to take apart for cleaning or to replace parts. (I’m on my umpteenth blade.) Always sterilize pruners between cuts by dipping them in a solution of 10 parts water to one part bleach.

Proper pruning cuts
Poorly executed cuts heal slowly, providing entry points for insect and disease organisms. Making a clean cut at the correct angle will produce a healthy shoot. Always prune to an outward-facing bud; new shoots will grow in the same direction.

Rough cuts (the result of dirty, blunt pruners) that leave bruised wood and ragged edges are an open invitation to pathogens; the bud will die.

Incorrectly angled cuts, where the cut angles towards the bud, will cause water to collect at the base of the shoots, leaving the bud to rot.

Cuts made too high above the bud will cause the cane to die back, often to below the bud, which will then become desiccated.

A choice cut is: Immediately above the bud, but slanted away from the bud.

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