What Is Shearing & How Does It Differ From Pruning?

There are many ways of shaping a plant other than just trimming. From pinching to pruning to shearing, every technique gives a distinct feel and look. But how exactly does shearing differ from pruning? The purpose of this post is to help you understand the difference.

Difference Between Shearing & Pruning

Shearing and pruning might sound the same but there is a significant difference between the two.

  • Pruning: This is the practice of removing branches selectively throughout a shrub. It is done to achieve proper health, size as well as structure. Shearing, on the other hand, only focuses on the outer edges of the shrub. Shearing is for aesthetics alone.
  • Pruning cuts will encourage growth throughout your plant. Shearing limits growth to the outer parts of the plant. The inside part of the plant will not be affected by shearing and thus will not grow much.
  • Pruning cuts will cater to the natural shape of the plant whereas shearing cuts train the plant to take an artificial look.
  • Pruning in tree care dictates the size of the plant while shearing does not control the size.

Should You Shear Evergreen Shrubs?

Shearing is ideal for plants in formal landscapes. Shearing is done with the aim of maintaining or achieving an elegant, showy look. In average landscapes, sheared shrubs tend to look out of place. What is more is that once a shrub has been sheared, it will have to be trimmed several times throughout the growing season. This is the only way you will manage to maintain the desired formal look.
In contrast, pruned shrubs do not require a lot of attention. They are trimmed in tune with their natural shape. For a conventional look that is better for the health of your plant and one that doesn’t require lots of maintenance, you should choose to prune, not shear.

Negative Effects Of Shearing

Experts will let you know that shearing has a cost. It affects the overall health of your plants. For starters, when you shear your plants regularly, you will promote heavy growth on the outside of a plant which ends up shading the inside of the plant. As a result of this, the outer parts will be growing and green but the inner parts will get little sunlight and tend to turn brown and die. As much as shearing is crucial in the shaping of a tree/shrub, you must also use pruning to keep the entire tree healthy.
Another problem with shearing is that it eliminates the most valuable parts of the tree – growth. All the growth takes place on the tips. Shearing focuses on the outer parts of the plant and this is where the new growth occurs. Shearing cuts away the new sprouts and leaves older plant parts behind. Shearing is not ideal for the health and structure of a plant.
When you want to shape a tree and still keep it healthy, selective pruning is recommended over shearing. Yes, pruning will take more time but the positive effects are worth it. 

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