What is Tip Pruning and How Do You Do It?

Tip pruning helps your plants to grow nice and strong and form a dense shape that is desirable to most gardeners.

Tip pruning is a common practice to help young plants become bushier and develop a dense growth habit.

This is especially important for hedging plants but can be used on almost all plants that benefit from being shaped into a nice bushy shrub.

What are the benefits of tip pruning?

Tip pruning helps your plants to grow nice and strong and form a dense shape that is desirable to most gardeners.

For many plants, when you prune their tips, two new branches will grow from the point where you made the cut. As long as you do it correctly, this will help to increase the density of the plant and often, this will result in more flowers as well.

In fact, deadheading your flowering plants is a form of tip pruning. When you do this, it encourages your plants to produce many more blooms in the same season.

deadheading | Plant care

Essentially, tip pruning is what scientists call breaking the apical dominance. What this means is that plants are inclined to continue to grow their stems in the same direction. 

There’s actually a hormone found in the tips that tells the plant to do this. Once you pinch or prune off the tip, this particular hormone will travel down to the next growth point. 

Growth points are often found in the axils where the leaves meet the stem. So, when you prune back to a point where two leaves meet the stem, the growth hormone stimulates the plant to grow new shoots from each of these growth points.

How do you tip prune your plants?

Tip pruning is really easy and something I like to do often with many of the ornamental plants that I grow in my garden.

All you need is a sharp pair of secateurs or pruning shears. Then, all you do is cut the tip of each branch. Make the cut just above a pair of leaves as this is where the new growth points will be.

tip pruning 1 | Plant care

If you have hedging plants, you can also tip prune using hedge clippers or hedging shears. Just give the entire plant a light trim all over to remove the tips of all the stems.

For plants that have very soft new growth, many experienced gardeners will also just pinch out the very tips of the branches using their fingers and thumb. If you decide to use this method, make sure that you pinch back to a growth point.

For deadheading, you can just use your secateurs or a pair of snips and cut the spent flower heads off, once again to a pair of growth points.

When is the best time to tip prune your plants?

Many flowering shrubs or hedging plants that benefit from tip pruning will put on a growth spurt in spring when the weather starts to warm up.

This is the perfect time to do some general tip pruning. As the plants are in active growth, new stems will emerge quickly from the growth points you pruned to.

You can continue to do some simple tip pruning right throughout the growing season. However, you want to avoid doing this during the colder months while the plants may be dormant.

After tip pruning your plants in the warmer months, it’s a good idea to give them a dose of organic fertiliser to encourage new growth. 

You can either use a pelleted product such as Dynamic Lifter or give your plants a liquid feed every couple of weeks. 

Additionally, a couple of doses of liquid seaweed such as Seasol will help to strengthen the growth of your plants after tip pruning.


Can I tip prune too much?

For shrubs, tip pruning regularly is not a problem. However, you should avoid doing this to large growing trees as it can disrupt their natural shape and even cause die-back.

What should you not do when pruning?

When doing any kind of pruning, it’s important not to cut back too much of the foliage. As a general rule, never cut back more than around one-third of the plant’s growth. Also, make sure that you always cut back to one or two growth points and not just a section of the stem.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


Leave a Comment