How to Prune Green Shrubs


Gardeners should prune green shrubs annually for two reasons: maintaining the shrub size and keeping the plant healthy. By removing dead or damaged wood and pruning to open up the canopy for better air circulation, gardeners ward off plant diseases that can weaken or kill the shrub. Landscape shrubs benefit from cosmetic pruning since they look awkward and leggy if not pruned. Prune most green shrubs in late winter or early spring when frost danger passes and provide follow-up trimming throughout the growing season.

Step 1

Inspect your shrub for evidence of dead, diseased or damaged branches. They may have discolored foliage or bark, appear broken or wounded or bear other cosmetic damage. Dead wood will not move in the wind. Removing this growth keeps the plant healthy.

Step 2

Prune out dead and unhealthy wood, cutting it off at the base. In between each cut, spray your pruners with disinfectant so you don't accidentally spread bacteria to healthy parts of the plant.

Step 3

Cut off wayward or low growing branches to maintain a compact appearance. Trim the tops of overgrown branches back to a desired height, working one at a time.

Step 4

Thin the interior of the bush by removing older wood that bears less or no foliage. This growth is thicker and may have grayish bark. Cut up to a third of the old growth stems, which will spur the growth of new wood.

Step 5

Trim back long branches once or twice during the summer, if necessary, to maintain a compact shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Disinfectant spray


  • North Carolina State University: Pruning Deciduous Shrubs
Keywords: shrub care, trim green shrub, prune deciduous shrubs

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.