Evergreen Tree Pruning Guide

Posted on: 19 October 2019

Evergreen trees include both those with needles and those with leaves that remain green year around. Since the growth cycle isn't as obvious on these trees, knowing when to prune can be a challenge. Add in the fact that evergreens have specific pruning needs, and trimming them can be nerve wracking if you aren't used to the process. The following guide will help you better attend to your evergreen's pruning needs.


It's a common misconception that evergreens don't go through a dormant cycle like their deciduous cousins, but this isn't true. Most evergreens have one to two periods of semi-dormancy -- midwinter and sometimes midsummer, depending on the species. It is during these periods of semi-dormancy that one should prune. Later winter pruning, a few weeks before active new growth begins, is when major pruning and shaping is scheduled. You can also perform a light pruning in midsummer to control the spring growth or re-shape an evergreen hedge.


Many needle-bearing evergreens have a natural cone or pyramidal shape. Any pruning should be done to maintain this shape, not try to alter it. As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to use the tree's natural shape as a guide instead of trying to change it completely. Dense broad-leaf hedges can withstand a bit more shaping. When pruning these plants, keep the top of them rounded or sloped. Flat tops collect debris and snow, the weight of which can split the hedge.


Pruning is relatively simple once you have the shape determined. Begin by cutting out dead and damaged wood, removing it back to the nearest healthy wood or a main branch. Then, move on to shaping. Cuts here should be made directly in front of a leaf or a needling branch. Remove no more than 1/4 of the branch when shaping, since you need to leave sufficient needles or leaves to photosynthesize for the tree.


There are two major concerns when pruning evergreens -- sanitation and old wood. Handle sanitation by rinsing the pruning saw and shears in a dilute bleach solution before moving between trees. This prevents the spread of pests and disease. As for old wood, avoid making cuts so deeply into the tree that you leave behind needleless or leafless branch stubs. Evergreens won't fill in needles on the old wood at the base of a branch, so cutting into the canopy this deeply results in bare spots.

For more help, contact a tree trimming service in your area, like Treetime Inc.