top of page

How to Prune, Trim, and Shape Your Shrubs

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

The snow melting and the temperatures rising can only mean one thing. Spring is here! And, with that, comes gardening season. To ensure your shrubs grown in the way you want them to, you will need to prune, trim, and shape them before they go through their spring growth spurt. Follow these tips to have your shrubs looking flawless this season.


When to Prune

The best time to prune depends on the plant. Trim early spring flowering shrubs as soon as they bloom. Summer-flowering plants should be clipped during the winter or early spring. For non-flowering plants, trim after new growth has finished. You can do light cutting throughout the year as well. Pruning directs growth, which allows air and light to reach the plant and remove excess weight from diseased and damaged branches.


General Shrub Pruning

Before you start, lay a tarp down to make cleaning up much more manageable. Remove growth you do not want, and then thin out spots of the thick outer cover. The inner limbs need sunlight and air, so cut along the branches just above recent growth or at the plant base. Do not use electric trimmers for this. Trimmers just top the shrub, encouraging new growth near the cut, while cutting farther back will promote growth along the limb.


Remove suckers, which are small branches that grow at the base of the trunk, and water sprouts, which are small limbs that grow vertically on dominant branches. Both take nutrients away from the desired portion of your plant. Remove any dead branches near the base. If possible, avoid making the top of the shrub wider than the bottom since you want sunlight to reach all of your plants. Cut only about one-third of the bush each year. The holes you are creating will fill in with new growth, making the plant stronger and fuller.


Formal Shrub Trimming

Bushes like boxwoods can be shaped to look more formal. First, do some general trimming as mentioned above. To cut straight lines, you can use your siding, house, or other objects in your yard as a guide. Some pros like to use stakes and strings as guides. Set them up along the hedges but do not set them in too deep into the cover. Use a level to position the lines if you want perfection. Slowly run a hedge trimmer along the top and sides, letting the blade do the work. Again, keep the base fuller than the top. Step back every once in a while to check your work.


Shrub and Hedge Trimming Tips

>> A hedge trimmer with elongated reach and a pivoting cutting head makes trimming tall hedges and bushes as well as hard-to-reach areas of the plant more manageable. Some string trimmers even accept hedge trimmer attachments.

>> When pruning mature and overgrown shrubs, first remove the thickest branches. Cut them back to the base of the bush to promote new growth.

>> Hand pruners are useful for smaller branches. Some can handle diameters up to an inch, but long-handled loppers give you leverage to cut branches one to two inches in diameter.

>> Cut with the branch deep in the jaws of the pruner or lopper. This technique gives you more force to cut. You should try to cut as cleanly as possible to promote quicker healing.

>> Consider creating a rounded top on your hedges and shrubs to reduce snow accumulation.


Pruning, trimming, and shaping your shrubs perfectly requires a lot of patience, time, and equipment. To make sure it is done correctly, call Arbor Care Tree Service Inc. Our experienced arborist will leave your landscape looking flawless so you can spend time doing more enjoyable things this spring.


bottom of page