KC Gardens

Now is a good time to prune evergreen shrubs

Sheared juniper.
Sheared juniper.

From Dennis Patton:

Late spring is an excellent time to prune evergreen shrubs in the landscape. Pruning just after the emergence of the spring growth will provide a basis for helping to shape the plant while retaining the natural look.

Equipment needed for evergreen shrub pruning will include a pair of hand clippers and maybe loppers. No hedge trimmers are needed when pruning for a natural look.

Evergreen shrubs in the landscape look best when their natural shape is allowed to show. Pruning evergreens into little boxes, balls or rectangles is not pruning, but shrub mutilation. Only in formal hedges or landscapes should evergreens be pruned in a tight sheared manner.

Evergreens are often planted around the foundation of the home to hide the exposed concrete or to accent the doorway. In order for the shrubs to soften the foundation, they must hide it. Pruning these poor plants into children’s building blocks does not soften the foundation, but marks it with a red flag, drawing attention.

Often the shrub is sheared so close that the “dead zone” appears leaving a gaping hole in the shrub. Do not prune deeper into an evergreen than where green growth is showing. Evergreens do not renew as easily as deciduous shrubs. Once the dead area is uncovered you will be stuck with it for some time.

By retaining the natural flow and branching structure of the plants, they will blend together hiding the structure. Pruning for a natural look is simple. It is easy to understand. The only drawback is that it will take a few minutes longer because pruning for a natural look requires you to think instead of shearing away with one wave of the arm.

Start by looking at the branching structure of the plant — how the limbs come out, what direction they point or grow. When you are done pruning you want to retain this look but only smaller.

Take hold of each overgrown limb and cut it back at a random point. Cut back to another branch pointing the direction you would like for the plant to grow. Repeat this process on the entire plant until all overgrown branches have been shortened. Stop and look frequently at the overall plant to make sure that natural shape is being retained.

Plants that have been sheared countless times may have to be removed. Chances are they are overgrown for the area and a new more vigorous plant would look better helping to renew the landscape. If they are still healthy it may take a couple of years for them to fully recover from years of bad practices.

Pruning evergreens such as junipers, yews, euonymus, boxwood and holly this way will show off the natural beauty of the plant forms. It is simple to do and will result in a beautiful plant that looks great in the landscape.