Pruning Evergreens

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated October 28, 2020)

Usually, when we think of evergreens, conifers such as pine, cedar, and spruce trees and bushes come to mind. But did you know that hemlock, holly, rainforest trees, and Eucalypts are also evergreens? All of those plant species are evergreens, meaning that they retain their leaves all year long, in all climates. Yet, evergreens require different pruning methods, depending upon the variety. A pruning method used on a conifer might permanently disfigure a Eucalypts, and vice versa. Before you attempt to prune your evergreens, check with your local Cooperative Extension office for help in determining the best pruning method. Here are some pruning tips appropriate for most evergreen plants:

  • While it may be tempting to use power hedge clippers on your evergreens, scissor action hand shears are recommended. If you have tall evergreens, buy a pole pruner at your local home improvement store.
  • Remove any dead, injured, or diseased wood by pulling apart the branches. Cut away all branches with visible wounds or discoloration, and completely trim away brown foliage.
  • Thin the plants by removing a few middle branches, until you can see daylight through the plant. Thinning your evergreens will help air and light to circulate through the plant, improving current growth, and encouraging new growth.
  • A pruning method known as "heading" should be used on evergreens wherein you cut a branch to just above a bud or other branch. Secondary branches growing off a main branch should be opposing. That is, they should alternate each side up the shaft of the main branch. Cut away all secondary branches not opposing evenly.
  • If you've trimmed your evergreens so many times that you have a massive network of tiny branches growing from a single, secondary branch, cut those tiny branches away entirely.
  • Reach deep into the middle of the evergreen and cut away all crossing growth. Doing so will force new growth, making the plant bushy and full.
  • If you have evergreen shrubs that seem to have grown out of control, trim them back by pruning last year's growth by one half, or more.

Always prune your evergreens in the early spring, making sure that you rake under the plants to remove the trimmings and dead branches and leaves. If you have flowers growing under your evergreens, wait until they have bloomed before pruning your evergreens. After pruning, mulch your evergreens to at least four inches. Mulch helps plants retain water, prevents weed growth, and encourages root health.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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