How to Trim Shrubbery


Shrubbery requires annual pruning in order to remain healthy and look neat, but a shrub can be ruined by improper pruning. You can prune most shrubs in the early spring once frost danger has passed, and you can trim them back throughout the growing season. Spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned after they bear flowers, since pruning beforehand will reduce the flower display.

Step 1

Check over the branches of your shrub for signs of dead, diseased or damaged branches. Dead branches will feel hollow, while diseased and damaged growth is scarred, wounded, discolored or otherwise marred. Remove this growth for the health of the shrub.

Step 2

Prepare a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water in a bucket. Place your pruning tools in this solution. Strip off unhealthy growth at its base or trim it back to a Y-intersection. In between each cut, place your pruners in the bleach solution to sanitize them.

Step 3

Head back long branches using anvil pruners. Work on one branch at a time. Trim each long branch back to the desired length, cutting at a 45 degree angle just above a node or swollen tissue.

Step 4

Thin overgrown shrubs or flowering shrubs that produce few flowers. Choose old growth (which typically has larger stems), and clip it off at the base. Remove no more than 1/3 of old growth in a single season.

Step 5

Prune off low-growing branches that may get bent by foot traffic or animals.

Step 6

Head back shrubbery again in the midsummer if it has grown too long. Some hedges or shrubs require more pruning to maintain a shape and can be trimmed two to three times per season.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some evergreen shrubs have a dead zone in the center of the plant where no foliage grows. Avoid cutting into this dead zone, since you'll create bare spots.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears


  • North Carolina State University: Pruning Shrubs
Keywords: shrub care, pruning shrubs, trimming shrubs, trim shrubbery, prune shrubbery

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.