Course CodeSGH6
Fee CodeSG
Duration (approx)20 hours
QualificationCertificate of Completion

Short Courses now available from ACS Distance Education










Pruning is an essential element of looking after many plants.  Understanding whether or not to prune a plant is crucial - some benefit from pruning, which promotes plant growth, flowering, and yielding of fruit, whilst others do not.  This short course will teach you how to prune properly and when you should prune.  You will learn about pruning of a variety of different plants, hedges, roses, how to create topiary and more.  The short course also includes a lesson on the tools and equipment you need to prune.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Why, when and what to prune: How pruning affects plants
    • Removing broken branches, dead or diseased wood
    • Controlling the type of growth
    • Controlling the plant’s shape and size
    • Promoting healthy, bushy growth
    • Rejuvenating a plant
    • Why prune?
    • Pruning different species
    • Timing for pruning
    • What is compartmentalisation?
  2. Types of Pruning
    • Cleaning out dead wood
    • Stopping
    • Disbudding
    • Deadheading
    • Pollarding
    • Removing branches
    • Crown cleaning
    • Crown thinning
    • Crown reduction
    • Crown lifting
    • Crown renewal
    • Root pruning
    • Pruning trees in general
    • Pruning larger shrubs
    • Pruning tropical plants
    • Pruning container plants
  3. Pruning Tools and Equipment
    • Secateurs
    • Pruning knife
    • Loppers
    • Pole pruners
    • Hand saws
    • Trimmers
    • Chainsaws
    • Gloves
  4. Pruning Hedges
    • Selecting hedging plants
    • Establishing a hedge
    • Types of hedge
    • Pruning or trimming an established hedge
    • Rejuvenating old and overgrown hedges
    • Pruning conifers
    • Other hedging techniques
    • Pleaching
    • Tapestry hedges
    • Mazes
  5. Shaping Plants
    • How to develop an espalier
    • Horizontal espalier
    • Oblique palmette espalier
    • Topiary
    • Portable topiary
    • Other plants suitable for topiary
    • Single-stem topiary
    • Verdant sculptures
    • Bonsai
    • Creating bonsai
    • Pruning bonsai to shape it
  6. Managing Prunings
    • Composting waste
    • Choosing plants for composting
    • Using compost to improve soils
    • Composting in home gardens
    • Indore method
    • Using lawn clippings
    • Mulching
    • How to lay mulch
    • Biochar
    • Chipping
  7. Pruning for Fruit Production
    • Before buying plants consider the shape
    • Before pruning
    • Points to consider when pruning
    • Pruning specific fruits
    • Citrus spp.
    • Pruning a bush shape
    • Pruning a standard shape
    • Renovating an old citrus tree
    • Open vase shape formative pruning
    • Plum tree pruning
    • Pruning apricots
    • Knowing your buds
  8. Pruning Roses
    • When to prune roses
    • Pruning techniques for different types of roses
    • Pruning climbers and ramblers at a glance
    • Pruning roses as standards
    • Dead heading roses
    • Rejuvenating an old rose plant
  9. Compendium of Plants - How to Prune What and When
    • Summary: Basic pruning guide for many different genera
    • Glossary

What You Will Do

  • This course will actually review a large variety of different plant genera and explain differences in how you should take a different approach to pruning of each. All of the following genera are covered:
    • Abelia, Abies, Abelioophyllum, Acacia, Acer, Actinidia, Aesculus, Aloysia, Amelanchier, Arbutus, Artemisia, Aucuba, Azalea
    • Bambusa, Bupleurum, Berberis, Betula, Buddlieia, Bulbs, Buxus
    • Callistemon, Caesalpinia, Callicarpa, Calycanthus, Camellia, Campsis, Carpentaria, Caryopteris, Ceanothus, Celastrus, Chamaecyparis, Chenomales, Coisya, Chimonanthus, Cistus, Clematis, Clerodendrum, Colquhounia, Colutea, Cornus, Cotinus, Crinodendron, Cydonia, Cytisus
    • Daphne, Decaisnea, Delonix. Deutzia, Drimys
    • Eleagnus, Embothrium, Erica, Eucalyptus, Euonymus, Euphorbia
    • Forsythia, Fuchsia
    • Gardenia, Garrya, Grevillea, Giselinia
    • Hakea, Halimium, Hamamelis, Hebe, Hedera, Helianthemum, Helichrysum, Hibiscus, Hippophae, Hydrangea, Hypericum
    • Indigofera, Itea
    • Jasminum, Juglans, Juniperus
    • Kalmi, Kerria, Kolkwitzia
    • Laburnum, Lagerstroemia, Laurus, Lavandula, Leptospermum, Ligustrum, Lippia, Lonicera, Lupinus
    • Magnolia, Mahonia, Melaleuca, Morus, Myrtus
    • Nandina, Nerium
    • Olearia
    • Palms, Paeonia, Parthenocissus, Passiflora, Paulownia, Perennials, Philadephus, Phlomis, Photinia, Picea, Pieris, Pinus, Pittosporum, Potentilla, Prostanthera, Protea, Prunus, Physocarpus, Punica, Pyracantha, Phaphiolepis
    • Rhododendron, Ribes, Robinia, Rosmarinus
    • Salix, Salvia, Sambucus, Sarcococca, Schisandra, Spartium, Spiraea, Stachyurus, Syringia
    • Tamarisk, Taxus. Tecoma, Tsuga
    • Viburnum, Vitis
    • Weigelia, Wisteria


The tools you use do matter. 
The most important consideration is to be able to make a sharp cut. When plant tissue is torn by blunt tools, there is a much greater chance of disease and die back (not to mention the act it can look ugly). Clean cuts are healthy and look better; so only use sharp tools.
Other concerns are:

  • How much pruning you are doing?
  • What you are pruning? - both species and type of tissue

This course helps you to understand these things, make better choices about what tools to use and how to use them.

Cutting Hedges
A good hedge trimmer can take a lot of the work out of maintaining a hedge, but you need to be able to choose the right type of hedge trimmer to suit your needs.

Manual versus Mechanised

1) Shears (manual)
Manual shears are like a large pair of scissors, with two blades that cut upwards and downwards. They are useful for small areas of hedging.

2) Reciprocating Blade Trimmers
These are the most popular type of mechanised hedge trimmer. They have two long bars with sharp-edged teeth that move back and forth across each other. The blades are either single-sided, cutting only when moved in one direction, or double-sided, cutting when the blade moves up or down. 
They can be powered by petrol, electricity or hydraulics (i.e. tractor mounted).
Electric and petrol trimmers are the most commonly used hand-held trimmers. Electric trimmers are useful for small to medium hedges. They either have a power cord or a rechargeable 12V battery. Rechargeable trimmers have the advantage of not having a cord (which means they’re safer and don’t need to plugged into an electricity outlet while they’re being used), but they can only be used for short periods before losing power. 
For frequent, heavy-duty use, a more powerful petrol-driven model is needed – typically with a 3 hp engine with the blades around 600mm long.

3) Circular Saw
These are driven by a hydraulic motor on the end of a long arm. These machines are fairly uncommon and are considered dangerous therefore are hard to track down. The average gardener would be better advised to use other models which are cheaper, safer to use and easier to maintain.

4) Flail Hedgers 
These are used for large-scale hedging on acreages or by government authorities/parks, etc. They work by beating the foliage with metal flails connected to a central shaft spinning at high speed. The blades can tear plant tissue and are rarely used in domestic gardens.
They are usually used on compact tractors. A safety break switch is built in to allow it to swing back if it hits an obstruction.
It is important to keep shears clean and free of corrosion:

  • After use, wipe the blades and remove any leaves or twigs.
  • Rub over with oil to prevent corrosion.
  • Store in a dry but well ventilated place.

Blades on shears should be sharpened periodically (if the cutting is becoming more difficult), but this is an expert job – the sharpening needs to be at the appropriate angle to optimise performance. Take them to an expert to sharpen – for a home gardener, every few years is adequate unless you are using the shears extensively and feel they need more attention.

For reciprocating blade trimmers, replace any damaged or missing teeth (most have serrated edged blades that don’t need to be replaced).
If using an electric motor be careful with oil or lubricants – if oil gets on the “brushes” inside the motor, it can cause damage. 
For flail machines, if flails break, they need to be replaced or the balance is lost and the machine will shake or vibrate.



This is a self paced, 20 hour study program; with everything from your enrolment through to awarding of your certificate of completion, controlled by computer software developed by our programmers.

Utilizing cutting edge technology all the way; you can

  1. Enrol, pay course fees into pay pal; your payment approval then triggers an email explaining how to proceed, and access to the course.
  2. You are then given instructions (options to read or listen to an audio).
  3. Next you proceed to work through lessons as fast or slow as you wish; undertaking automated self assessment tests at the end of each lesson, choosing practical/additional learning tasks to undertake as you go.
  4. On concluding the final lesson; you undertake a major online exam; and on achieving a 60% pass rate, you are given a "Certificate of Completion" carrying your name and date, to download as a pdf, to save or print as you wish

NOTE:    Unlike our other 100 hour courses, there is no additional exam fee charged for the exam in this or any of the 20 hour short courses.

Example page from the course:


Who is this Course For?

New gardeners (amateur or professional) - even experienced gardeners.

This course has brought together the knowledge and experience of a whole team of experienced horticulturists and gardeners from different climates and each with experience pruning different plants in different ways. It's development was supervised by John Mason - himself having over 50 years of experience pruning plants. Pruning is a key skill in any gardeners repertoire, and given the great diversity of plants we grow, there would be very few experienced gardeners who could not learn something from this course. The course is however is still a valuable starting point for the new gardener.

These are things that everyone who attempts pruning can benefit from.

It's Easy to Enrol

Select a Learning Method



Courses can be started at any time from anywhere in the world!

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.