pruning, the horticultural practice of cutting away an unwanted, unnecessary, or undesirable plant part, used most often on trees, shrubs, hedges, and woody vines. Man uses pruning to remove diseased or injured parts of the plant (see tree surgery), to influence vertical or lateral growth for various reasons, and to increase flowering or fruit yield. Top pruning, or topping, induces lateral growth, and in fruit trees not only produces a more easily accessible shape but also diverts the expenditure of nourishment from the formation of useless wood to that of buds and fruit. In transplanting, the aerial parts of the plant are pruned to balance the amount of root destruction, so that the transpiration area is reduced and the roots have a chance to concentrate their activity on establishing contact with the soil. Judicious pruning of garden perennials helps to maintain plant vigor and prolongs blooming. In topiary work shrubs and trees are pruned to form decorative shapes. As in other horticultural practices, the type of pruning and its timing vary and must be adapted to the specific plant and the conditions of its environment.
See E. P. Christopher, The Pruning Manual (1954); R. L. Hudson, The Pruning Handbook (1973); C. Brickell, Pruning (1979).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.