How Do You Prune Australian Plants

Pruning of Australian natives has, in the past, generally not been considered necessary as a useful technique in the cultivation of natives, however many Australian natives will benefit from pruning. Some, like many Boronias, will live and flower for significantly longer if pruned annually. Others can be rejuvenated and the foliage kept denser and healthy if routinely pruned.

Removal of dead tissue will improve both their appearance and health; infections (e.g. bacteria, fungal diseases), and even insects, attack and gain a foothold in dead, or weakened, plant tissues with relative ease. Once established, they are able to multiply and spread much more easily into the healthy parts of the plants. Regular pruning can thus be a major way of controlling diseases in your plants.

Generally, pruning is carried out to:

  • Rejuvenate older plants or increase the life span of short-lived plants.
  • Modify the shape or habit of the plant (e.g. to make a plant more compact or its foliage denser, to cut away branches from a footpath or drive, to create a hedge).
  • Remove damaged, diseased or dead plant material.
  • Promote increased flowering by removing spent flowers, or seed pods.

When To Prune
In most cases, an annual prune is sufficient for healthy plants. For most plants, up to one-third of the growth can be removed at the annual pruning without stressing the plant. (Many plants can tolerate much more severe pruning – even to ground level; others won’t recover and are best given frequent light trims).

At the time of the annual pruning, you should remove any remaining dead flowers and seed heads, as well as any dead or diseased wood.

In some cases more frequent pruning is beneficial to the plant. For example, although many people prune roses only once a year, others also give a lighter prune in summer to encourage more flowers and to cut out any dead or diseased wood.

The same principal applies to all other plants – if the plant is carrying dead wood or showing signs of disease, don’t wait until the annual pruning to remove the affected parts. Remember, the longer the diseased or dead wood remains on the plant, the greater the risk of the infection spreading.

Pruning tools should be sharp and clean. Wipe the blades with methylated spirits before and after use to reduce the risk of spreading disease.

Dead Heading
Some plants drop their flowers while they’re still fresh; others hold on to the spent flowers for weeks, even months. Most flowering plants will benefit from deadheading, including soft wooded plants (e.g. daisies). The more frequent the deadheading the better, as it encourages more flowers and can reduce the risk of disease.

Deadheading, the process of cutting off dead flowers from a bush - is beneficial for garden plants:

  1. When you cut off the dead flowers, you are cutting off dead tissue which could be harbouring diseases.
  2. The pruning cuts encourage side shoots to grow so the plant will produce more flowers.
  3. You are removing unsightly withered flowers, improving the plant’s appearance.
  4. By removing the flowers, you are preventing seeds (and fruits) developing, so the plant has more energy for growth and flower production.
What Next?