How to Prune Outdoor Evergreens Without Ruining Them

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For most of the year, deciduous trees get all the attention. To their credit, though, they do put on quite the show: Blossoming in the springtime, providing shade in the summer, and then pulling out all the stops for their final number—having their leaves change colors, and then falling off their branches.

Evergreen trees, however, are nature’s workhorse. They manage to retain their green shade year-round—even when all the other trees are standing around naked for the winter. Your evergreen trees are there for you, so it’s time to be there for them (and by this we mean making sure they look good). In an article for Better Homes & Gardens, Megan Hughes shares some tips for pruning your evergreen trees to keep them in tip-top shape all year. Here’s what to know.

Out with the old branches

Start by getting rid of any dead, broken, or diseased branches or foliage, Hughes says, noting that this can be done any time of the year:

Remove the offending branches as soon as you notice them, cutting back to healthy, live growth or to the main stem. Aim to make cuts that leave the plant with the most natural shape possible. This often means cutting the branch back to the trunk or ground level for a shrub.

Time for a trim

According to Hughes, the best time of year to prune evergreens is late winter or early spring (but remember: taking care of dead or broken branches can be done in any season). The most common reason why healthy evergreen branches need to be pruned is that they grow especially quickly on a particular tree, she says. In this case, your aim is to keep the tree from becoming overgrown by preserving its natural shape as much as possible

To do this, you’ll need a sturdy pair of pruning shears or loppers. Here’s Hughes to walk you through the rest:

Selectively remove each branch back to the main branch it may be growing from or the trunk itself. For shrubs, you may need to cut a branch back to ground level. Annual pruning to maintain an evergreen’s size is easier on the plant and you than tackling big pruning projects every few years.

Hughes provides even more tips in her article, including how to prune evergreen shrubs and hedges.

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