When & How to Trim Bushes & Shrubs?


Healthy green shrubs and bushes add privacy and beauty to a yard. Overgrown, diseased or dying bushes or shrubs make a landscape seem ignored and ugly. Properly trimmed and pruned plants not only look better, they are also often healthier than their unkempt counterparts. Since even a novice can learn to trim a shrub, this is one of the easiest ways to improve the appearance of your lawn.

When To Trim

Step 1

Trim your bushes and shrubs when they look overgrown. Look for a loss of shape and aesthetic appeal. Notice whether the bush seems too tall or too wide.

Step 2

Trim when you notice the bush beginning to cut out the sunlight and crowd in on the space of other plants and flowers.

Step 3

Prune whenever you notice the center of the bush beginning to lose leaves, taking on a twiggy appearance. This is a result of the inner part of the plant not receiving enough sunlight because of the outer branches taking over.

Step 4

Trim and prune bushes that have begun to take on a sickly appearance. Removing infected or diseased portions of the bush will give the rest a better chance at survival.

How To Trim

Step 1

Trim back overgrown branches on the outside of the bush. Cut them back until the plant takes on a more appealing form. Make sure to leave enough main branches to keep from doing harm.

Step 2

Top the bush or shrub, cutting it down to the preferred height. This will also help sunlight to reach the inside, encouraging new growth.

Step 3

Prune out dead and yellowed leaves and branches. If any branches or leaves appear to have a fungus, bacteria or other type of infections, remember to remove those as well.

Step 4

Make clean cuts down toward the base of branches. This will help prevent infection from setting into the fresh wound.

Step 5

Rake up fallen leaves and branches and remove from the area. This is especially important in cases of disease and infection, to prevent spreading.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Pruning shears
  • Clippers
  • Rake


  • This Old House: How to Trim Overgrown Hedges
  • Purdue University Extension Department of Horticulture: Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Missouri Extension: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Keywords: tree shrub care, how to prune, pruning trimming, when to trim

About this Author

Mark Rhyman has been working as a freelance writer since 2005. His work has appeared in numerous online and print publications, such as "Kotori" magazine and "Inside Lacrosse." He has his bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from the State University of New York at Brockport.