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Pruning Terms Explained

Published on August 7th 2021
A close up of a flower
Pruning, like feeding and watering, is a necessary part of caring for your plants. Pruning can be daunting at first but with the right tools and basic plant knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a pruning pro. But, before we talk about pruning tools and how to prune which plants, it’s important to know a few basic pruning terms.
For pruning beginners and experts alike, here are a few pruning terms to add to your gardening glossary:


A shoot that has developed to maturity and has passed through one or more dormant seasons, usually originates from the main trunk.

Branch collar

A small swelling right where the branch meets the trunk area. This tissue contains specialised cells that aid in wound healing and protection against disease.


A small dormant growth on the tip of a shoot that will develop into a leaf, flower or shoot.


The uppermost branches of the tree, also referred to as 'crown'.


The angle developed between two connecting shoots or branches.
A small bird perched on a tree branch


Removing spent flowers to encourage continued blooming and to keep the plant from wasting energy producing seeds.


Removing young vegetative shoots from a tree or shrub during the growing season to improve the framework of the plant.


Removing dormant buds. This is often done in the case of young, newly planted trees during the selection of buds for the formation of scaffold branches.

Fruiting wood

Branches carrying flower buds, and therefore the potential for bearing fruit.
An apple hanging from a tree

Heading back

Cutting away a portion of the terminal growth of an upright or lateral branch, often reducing the size of the tree. Heading back stimulates new growth that emerges from the buds below the cut and often retards terminal growth of the plant.


The area of stem between nodes.


The vertical stem at the top of a trunk terminal leader of a tree, in most cases it is the trunk. A tree or shrub can also have more than one leader i.e. a multiple leader tree.

Limbing up

Removing the lowest branches from a mature tree to raise the canopy and increase available light.


The point of attachment of one or more buds from which leaves or branches emerge.
A small bird perched on a tree branch

Old wood

Branches that have produced fruit for a number of years, generally for more than 5 or 6 years.

One-year wood

A term generally used in the dormant season - the wood of branches produced by the previous season’s growth.


Removing the growing tip of a plant to encourage bushy growth and stimulate more blooms.

Scaffold branch(es)

The primary limbs that form the basic framework of a tree or shrub, primarily arising directly from the main trunk.


Cutting back numerous stem tips across a smooth plane, usually to shape a shrub or hedge and promote bushy growth. Shearing is usually done two or more times during the growing season, depending on the plant.
A person holding a baseball bat


A young branch or sucker sprouting from the main trunk and is vegetatively produced from a dormant bud.


A vigorous shoot originating from root or stem tissue below ground.


Tip ends of branches.


Removing shoots or limbs right to the trunk or another main branch, for the purposes of permitting greater light and spray penetration into all areas of the plant. This type of pruning does not stimulate plant growth, but takes out older growth or interfering and unneeded branches.

Topping off

A drastic cutting back of large branches on a mature tree, a detrimental tree practice that is not encouraged as it leads to decay and structural weakness.
A close up of a tree


The main woody stem of a tree, up to the first main scaffold branch.

Water sprout

Vigorous, succulent shoots arising from larger branches of a tree, often produced in large numbers just below a pruning cut.


The cut surface remaining on the plant where a branch has been removed by pruning.

Wound dressing

A substance applied on wounds to protect exposed plant tissues from fungal or bacterial infection.
A pile of rocks

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