Fear of Pruning

Arlington, MA

I know some of my plants would be healthier with some snipping, but I am really hesitant to prune or "clean up" plants, even in the spring, because
1) the shrubs I've brought in are new-ish--within the last year or two--and I've heard that they need to be older to prune.
2) books about pollinators have made me think that any dead stalk might harbor baby bees or caterpillars.
3) they're natives! no one's out there pruning in the wild, are they?
I know, in a vague way, not to prune buds and/or bushes that bloom on old growth (and can probably figure out which those are) but otherwise I'm at a loss. Can anyone give advice or point me to resources for gardeners way more interested in habitat than tidiness? Many thanks.

Kimberly, WI(Zone 5a)

This is one of those things that there are no set rules on, in the broad sense. Sometimes tidiness and health go hand-in-hand.
Just because you are pruning doesn't mean you can't stick with a natural form either.
I'm not sure what type of plants you have, and I can assure it you it matters a great deal.. When it comes to pruning it's really best to discuss specific plants when you are learning, because timing and approach can have the greatest impact on the results. I've been pruning for years and still look up plants I'm unfamiliar with and ones I've lost sight of.. Most of my references for that are in my library though.
Sometimes you do a new transplant disservice by allowing it to waste energy on a bloom and fruit cycle, when it should be focused on root growth. Some plants respond very adversely to being pruned, or can be subjected to undue stress or active diseases if done with poor timing. Some plants you can dig out, chop up, and leave them lay in the sun and they might just flower to spite you.. Or at least go to seed. I'm still looking for the one that can creep back into the soil..
So let us start with what you have to discuss, and I'm pretty sure I can give you some bias and non-bias information, and we can discuss the actual pros and cons by plant.

Medina, United States

Even though you are more interested in habitat than tidiness, few yard work like pruning is mandatory. Pruning promotes plant health, and help you maintain the plants.
For specific shrubs, pruning plays an effective role. So, before starting your yard work, know the type of shrub you have, and find the best time to work on it.
Here you can learn interesting facts related to shrub pruning: https://edenapp.com/services/yard-work/shrubs

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