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The 1/3 Rule for Pruning Shrubs

When pruning shrubs like hydrangeas, roses, and lilacs, a lot of us find ourselves contemplating whether to trim more or less. Some may choose to prune less to avoid unnecessary damage to the plant, while others prune more to achieve their desired shape. Both of these practices won't improve the shrub and may even stunt the plant's growth. Learning the proper technique makes it easier to prune your shrubs. To help prune your shrubs correctly, we suggest you follow the 1/3 rule.

What is the 1/3 Rule?

The 1/3 rule involves cutting about 1/3 of wood during any pruning activity. This moderate pruning practice is a balanced approach to thinning out shrubs to stimulate  new growth. The plant loses a good amount of stems, usually on the top section, allowing more light and air to enter the inside of the plant. This technique keeps the foliage and nutrients in balance, helps the plant heal faster, and encourages new stem growth.

When Should I Apply the 1/3 Rule?

While it may be tempting to prune your shrub during the pruning season, the 1/3 rule only applies to fully established plants. Newly planted shrubs and small trees should be pruned after a season or two, once their roots are fully secured.

What Tools Do I Need?

When you prune your shrubs, using the right tools is as important as knowing the proper technique. Before each session, remember to keep your tools sharp and clean to help prevent disease-causing bacteria from damaging your shrub.

Pruning shears are the most commonly used tool in pruning. They look and work like your regular scissors, designed to be lightweight and easy to grip. Because of their size, these garden scissors can cut in tight and small spaces within your shrub or bushes. Pruners can help maintain dense shrubs by cutting a fragment of branches up to 1/4 inch in diameter, following the 1/3 rule.

If you're looking for a pair of bypass garden scissors, look for one with a protective coating since these will prevent the blades from corrosion, are durable, and sharp. Consider the cutting capacity, making sure your pruner can cut through the branches of your shrubs. The handles should also fit your hand size and be comfortable to hold, even during long hours of pruning, just like our EnduroPRO garden shears. A bypass pruner with replacement parts is also a great choice.

What about branches with a larger diameter? Often measuring up to 36 inches in length, cutting larger branches are where loppers come in handy. Giving you added reach through its long handles, they're what you need to cut back overgrown shrubs or bushes.

If you're looking for a bypass lopper, choose one that has long handles for added leverage. However, keep in mind the longer they are, the heavier they'll be. Ergonomic and non-slip grips add comfort while pruning, while a coated blade will allow you to prune up to 2 inches thick.

If you want to know what tools are used for pruning, we have a detailed guide with the must-have gardening hand tools you need in your garden when you prune your plants.

Basic Pruning Technique to Use

The basic pruning technique involves knowing which stems or canes to cut and when to prune.

For shrubs and small trees, it's best to prune during late winter or early spring. During this time, the plant is at its dormant period and preparing for new growth. You can prune your spring-flowering shrub after they bloom, allowing air and sunlight to enter the inner part of the plant.

For established shrubs, use your garden shear to cut the dead, dying, and diseased branches, followed by branches that are going inward, clustering, crossing with each other, and at an acute angle. Remember to practice the 1/3 rule, removing enough wood that's not too little or too many.


Are you using the right gardening hand tools for your shrubs?

The idea behind Haus & Garten was to create a collection of premium-grade tools that would meet the different needs and demands of avid and professional gardeners when it comes to their gardening tasks.

Greg Schultz, owner of Haus & Garten, produced a selection of quality tools that are not only available for professional gardeners, but also to avid and home gardeners who hope to find ease and comfort when they prune their shrubs.

As someone who has worked in the landscaping industry for almost three decades, Greg understands what makes a high-quality pruning tool. Greg says, "Pruning can be as easy as 1-2-snip... All you really need is 1- the right knowledge, 2- the right tool, and you can start to prune."

Long before Greg founded Haus & Garten, he had a very successful business—as a professional landscaper and arborist.

Greg spent three decades working in the field and his experience helped him understand the specific needs and demands of gardeners when dealing with their pruning tasks. With his unique insight, he created our Haus & Garten PRO series in 2010.

Greg's goal was to develop a set of premium-grade gardening hand tools that all types of gardeners could rely on for performance and quality. As a matter of fact, many of his customers were able to witness the fulfilment of this goal through his range of pruning tools.

"Precision, smooth and effortless pruning. I'm simply amazed by the ease, comfort and performance that I'm experiencing each time I use this tool. What a great product!" Tony says, one of our Amazon customers who commented on the precision, smoothness, and effortless pruning he's experienced after using the EnduroPRO pruning shears, one of the PRO pruners Haus & Garten offers.


Haus & Garten gardening shears have been designed with ergonomics in mind and this is noticeable in the contoured-shape handles that perfectly fit in your hand. These ergonomic pruners are also complemented with a spring that's loaded with a shock-absorbing cushion which reduces the strain you'll feel on your hand after each cut. Solid yet lightweight and made from forged aluminum construction, these pruners offer their users a more comfortable pruning experience so you aren't left feeling sore after each routine which you'd normally experience when using plain straight or thinner-handled pruners. In particular, one of our PRO series pruners have an inclined cutting head that keeps the wrist in a neutral position which is especially useful for gardeners performing extensive gardening activities.

At Haus & Garten, we recognize the different needs and demands that you'll need for various pruning jobs. Below, we provided a brief description of each model that are best suited for your needs that include; intensive day-to-day activity, prolonged heavy use and light detailed precision work; all of which are thoughtfully designed to ensure you'll get the optimal comfort, durability, and performance that will allow you to enjoy your pruning activities just like Greg did.

ClassicPRO - Our universal hand pruners for more general day-to-day and heavy pruning, these pruners are your choice when dealing with the toughest gardening challenges. These pruners are made for medium to large-sized hands, with a 1-inch cutting capacity and a straight angled head.

EnduroPRO - These pruners are ergonomically-designed to neutralize wrist bending for increased comfort during long hours of pruning. It is also made with a vertical inclination which means the hand and wrist are in a neutral position as you prune, reducing potential for wrist injuries and hand fatigue. The contoured handles are easier to grip and are much more comfortable to use. The inclined angled head improves maneuverability, making it easy to use on dense plants.

PrecisionPRO - These compact garden pruners are built for smaller to medium-sized hands. Meant for everyday light pruning and better maneuverability in tight spaces of dense plants, this pruners has a cutting capacity of up to 0.8 inch and slightly inclined angled head for reaching into small and tight spaces of plants.

Packed with great features and benefits, there no need to call a professional to prune for you! Instead of paying $50/hr for an experienced gardener or $400 for a tree pruning service, invest in a reliable pair of garden shears and do it yourself. You'll be surprised at how easy and enjoyable this task can be when done with the right tool.

At Haus & Garten, if you’re not happy with what we promise, there’s a money back guarantee so you have nothing to lose, but like so many previous customers, I’m sure you’ll love our PRO series bypass pruning tools.



$49.95 $54.90

The Choice for the Toughest Gardening Challenges, These Pruners are Made for Hard Use, Whilst Still Delivering Smooth, Precise Cutting Action That's Easy on Your Hands.

$49.95 $54.40

Ergonomically Designed For Optimum Comfort And Shaped To Neutralize Wrist Bending, Ideal For Regular And Day-To-Day Pruning.

$49.95 $56.67

Compact Size Pruner Built For Smaller To Medium Hands! Easy To Use, Lightweight, Versatile Pruner Designed For Lighter Pruning Work, A Solid Compact Tool For Faster & More Efficient Pruning.

$54.95 $59.95

Compound Action Bypass Loppers Designed To Provide 3X More Power Than Traditional Ones, Built With Long Handles For Added Leverage, Ideal For Tougher Branches.