How to Prune Shrubs and Trees Away from Your Home — and Why You Should!

Older gentleman using hedge trimmers to trim up a hedge with a ladder beside him

We’ve all seen those beautiful old brick homes covered in ivy or a stunning old Victorian home surrounded by plants and shrubs growing all over them. While crawling wisteria and curtains of draping ivy can certainly look lovely, there are some good reasons why pruning trees, shrubs, bushes, and vines away from the house is the best practice for both your plants and your house. If planted too close to the house or not kept in check, shrubs and trees can quickly take over a space and will eventually become too big to prune or control. Here are some whys and how-tos for pruning shrubs and trees away from your house.

Why Prune

A yard taken over by overgrown plants and bushes

In short, pruning is necessary to promote good plant health, encourage new growth, maintain shape, and remove damaged material. Pruning your trees and shrubs will also encourage more fruiting and flowering in the case of roses, fruit trees, and other flowering plants. And, in general, pruning will help provide more air circulation and sunlight and improve the structural soundness of your plants.

There are some other good reasons to prune your trees and shrubs away from your home. Many people like to accent and decorate their yards and homes by planting trees and shrubs in front gardens or around the perimeter of the house. While this may look wonderful, it will require proper pruning maintenance to ensure that your plants don’t damage your house. Certain trees and shrubs, such as wisteria and climbing roses, are particularly notorious for damaging your house. Instead of letting them climb up your house, build them a proper trellis or another structure that they can safely climb up without damaging the house.

Avoid Tree Damage

Man wearing a flannel and vest with pruners looking at a branch

Trees especially are notorious for damaging houses if planted too close. Tree roots tend to grow to at least the size of the canopy, if not bigger. This is great for keeping your trees sturdy and healthy but can cause problems if roots start growing into the foundation of your home, which will ultimately damage it. Keep large shrubs and trees at least 10-30 feet away from the foundation of your house. If that’s not possible, then practice good pruning to minimize root growth. There is also the obvious problem you want to avoid: limbs or large branches can break off and damage your house if the trees are too close. Good pruning practice can ensure that heavy limbs aren't at risk of falling onto your home.

Finally, branches and leaves that touch the siding of your house will leave the home susceptible to water damage, pets, rot, mold, and mildew. If you have trees or shrubs that touch your house, be sure to keep them pruned 6-36 inches away from the siding so that nothing is actually touching your house.

How to Prune Away from the House

Person wearing yellow working gloves trimming up a hedge with hedge cutters

Pruning trees and shrubs is unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all procedure. Different plants require different ways of pruning, times of year for pruning, and different amounts of vegetation pruned off. Always check first before pulling out the shears to be sure you prune according to the needs of your particular tree or shrub.

Use the Right Tools

You will want to begin with the right tools. Depending on the size of the job, you will want a pair of gardening shears, hedge-cutters, wood-clippers, or even a power trimmer. All of these are easy to use and easy to find at any hardware store or garden center. It is imperative to make sure that your tool of choice is clean to prevent the spread of disease. Wipe down the blades with bleach or vinegar to sterilize before using. Be sure to clean again between plants.

Make a Clean Cut

A close-up of someone using red pruners to trim a small branch

Generally, proper pruning is done to support the health and growth of the plant, while trimming is done for aesthetic or practical reasons. To prune, begin by cutting away dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Aside from being an eyesore, these unhealthy branches can harbor diseases and pests, so it’s best to get them out of the way. Make a clean cut with your tool just above the branch collar, or the bump between the branch and the main trunk. By doing this, you give the branch a chance to grow back or callous over and heal. Always cut branches on a slant so that rainwater slides off the cut and prevents fungus or disease. You can also use this technique to prune back large branches or growth that is rubbing up against the house to protect the house and keep your plants healthier. Remember to prune back from the side of the house at least 6 inches. Prune the lower branches of trees that may be too close to the house to encourage growth that goes upwards and away from the house. After you’ve done the pruning, trim away lighter foliage and branches away from the house so that there is adequate space.

Prune deciduous trees and shrubs in late winter or early spring when the plant is dormant to avoid too much stress on the plants. For needle-bearing evergreens, also prune in late winter or early spring when they are dormant. For flowering trees and shrubs, do not prune in the winter. Instead, prune immediately after the blooming cycle ends.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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