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The general rule to pruning is to always cut in a location where growth will occur, whether the cut is next to a bud or another branch. Cutting a branch beyond where growth will occur effectively kills all portions of that branch back to the closest branch, bud, or dormant bud clusters, leaving a stub of dead wood. The withered stub will eventually rot away and fall off. Prior to that, however, it will prevent the plant from forming a callus over the cut surface, which will in turn invite insects and infection. All cuts should be relatively smooth since this will aid in healing.

Also, the pruning cut should not be too large when compared to the growing point. For instance, a large cut on a 20 cm trunk down to a 15 cm branch should be fine, but the same cut to the trunk down to a 1 cm twig or bud is considerably less ideal and should be avoided if possible.

Pruning to bud

A correct pruning cut will allow for quick healing and promote vigorous growth from the closest bud to the cut. The cut should be close enough to the bud to reduce the size of the stub of dead wood that will form from the cut, but far enough away to prevent the bud from being adversely affected by the cut though desiccation. Cutting too close to the bud (under-cutting) sometimes results in the death of the bud, which results in a scenario similar to cutting too far away from the bud (over-cutting). In general, a correct cut should be angled at a moderate 35-45 degree slant such that its lowest point is situated on the same level as the tip of the growth bud. This technique is usually applied when pinching or when cutting-back.

Pruning to a main branch

The pruning cut should occur slightly away from and follow the branch collar. When cutting away branches growing directly from the roots, the cut should be flush and level to the ground. This technique is usually applied when thinning or to remove larger dead or damaged branches.

When using pruning shears or loppers to remove a branch back to a main branch, the "hook" portion of the shears should always face away from the main branch. This ensures that the blade will not leave a protruding stub and the hook will not damage the branch collar or parts of the main branch.

Large heavy branches Depending on the weight of the branch, the first cut should be a notch on the underside of the branch about a third to half of the way through. The bulk of the branch should then be removed with a follow-through cut slightly above the first cut, thus leaving a limb stub. The purpose of this is to stop the weight of the branch from tearing the bark of the tree from the underside, which would normally occur if the removal was done with one cut. The limb stub ensures that any cracking of the wood resulting from the branch separation is limited to the portion of the wood to be removed. The branch collar should then be located, and can be identified by the strip of rough bark running down from the topside of the branch at its junction with the stem. The cut for removing the limb stub should be just outside the branch collar, leaving a small bump. The bump and the branch collar should not be removed since this action can reduce healing time, which could result in a major infection.