How to Prune Arborvitae


Arborvitaes are a popular landscape element. There are several reasons to prune an arborvitae, such as to maintain a desired height or shape, or to remove diseased or damaged growth. Some arborvitae, however, will not need pruning as they will maintain their natural shape as they grow. It is important to understand the growth habits of this evergreen. For example, interior branches are bare and caution should be taken not to prune down to these bare areas---they cannot withstand drastic pruning. Arborvitaes should be pruned in the fall or early winter.

Step 1

Step back and locate where the shape of the arborvitae is becoming irregular. Determine what branches/areas need pruning.

Step 2

Examine the interior of the evergreen, before beginning to prune, noting the depth of the growth. Do not remove all of the existing growth and leave bare branches exposed.

Step 3

Use the scissor-action hedge shears to slowly cut away the growth that has gotten out of shape. For minimal pruning you can use your hand pruners.

Step 4

Rake up the pruned material and deposit it in your compost bin. Dispose of any diseased material.

Tips and Warnings

  • Electric trimmers tend to break off and tear the twigs/branches.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Scissor-action hedge shears
  • Rake


  • About Arborvitae
  • Arizona Education Publications
Keywords: arborvitae pruning prune, shape trim bare branches, maintain shape hedge shears

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.